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  1. AFL Report - Week 6: Rafters Play for AFL Championship

    (This report includes the games played through 11/18 and the end of the AFL season)

    The Rafters went just 1-3 in their final four games, but that was enough thanks to their prior efforts. The Twins hitters had a solid week as they combined for a .374/.412/.438 slash line, and one continued his encouraging upward trend to finish his season strong. The pitchers didn’t fare quite as well, as they combined for a 6.00 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in nine innings pitched.

    To find out how all the Twins prospects finished their AFL campaigns and how the championship game went for the Rafters, keep reading!

    (links provided to each player’s overall AFL stats by clicking their name)

    Griffin Jax: 1 start, 4.0 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 2 ER, 2 K; 3.86 ERA, 1.52 WHIP (overall).

    Jax put an end to his AFL season by starting Thursday’s 4-2 loss against the Glendale Desert Dogs after the Rafters had already punched their ticket to the championship game. After Salt River scored two in the top of the first, he gave those runs back with a rough inning of his own. The leadoff man singled and came around to score on a triple before another single tied the game. After another single and a mound visit he got a grounder to keep the game knotted after one.

    From there he was able to work around any baserunners, holding Glendale scoreless for the rest of his outing. He allowed a single and a walk in the second but got a double play ball to quash it. In the third he navigated around a one-out single with another ground ball and a K. In his final frame he walked a batter, but he was then cut-down trying to steal second base, so he faced just three hitters. On the game he threw 72 pitches, with 43 going for strikes.

    I’d say it was a mixed bag for Jax in the AFL as he walked a lot of batters and his WHIP wasn’t great for a starting pitcher, but he also didn’t give up a lot of earned runs. His 21 innings pitched ranked fourth on the team and his 3.86 ERA ranked third among the six pitchers who made starts for Salt River. I wouldn’t say his performance upped his stock any, but he’s pitched so little as a professional to this point there’s still plenty to work on and improve.

    Travis Blankenhorn: 2 games, 4-for-8, 2 R, BB, 3 K; .224/.352/.241 (overall).

    The (super?) utility man got in two of his teams four games on the week, again playing the outfield in Tuesday’s loss to the Scottsdale Scorpions, and was back at second base in their division clinching win against Glendale on Wednesday.

    Batting ninth and playing in left against the Scorpions, Blankenhorn helped start a two-out rally for the Rafters in the seventh inning with the game still tied at zero. His single put a runner into scoring position for the top of their order, and his teammate brought them both in with a triple for 2-0 lead. It went downhill from there for Salt River and one of Blankenhorn’s organizational teammates as they ended up losing 4-2 and postponing their division title hopes for another day. He finished 1-for-4 while striking out three times.

    They were able to take care of the division on Wednesday, with Blankenhorn taking the leadoff spot in the lineup. He led off the bottom of the first for the Rafters with a bunt single, drew a walk in the third, singled in the fifth, reached on an error in the seventh, and singled in the eighth to be a model of that spot in the batting order. He scored the go-ahead run in the seventh inning and his team held on to punch their ticket to the AFL Championship with a 4-3 win.

    The most noteworthy aspect of Blankenhorn’s time in the AFL, for me, was the time he spent playing in the outfield on Tommy Watkin’s squad. I’d expect he gets some more run there during the 2019 minor league season, and due to his overall athleticism, he could turn into a nice super-utility type in the future if the Twins pursue that any further. You would like to see a slugging percentage that outpaces an on-base percentage by .100 points instead of the other way around in AFL play, but the uptick in walks and relative lack of strikeouts was a good sign. The overall slash numbers weren’t there by any stretch, but he also had some big games in other ways that don’t necessarily stand out statistically.

    Hector Lujan: 2 appearances, 2.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R (0 earned), BB, 2 K; 5.59 ERA, 1.86 WHIP (overall).

    The righthander made his first appearance of the week in Monday’s 5-4 loss to Peoria, and unfortunately he contributed to the negative effort, but it wasn’t all his fault. After the Javelina’s had tied it at three in the bottom of the ninth (foreshadowing the championship game), Lujan was summoned for the bottom of the tenth with Salt River now up by one. The runner starting the frame on second base moved to third on a fly ball for the first out then scampered home after a wild pitch to tie the game once again. After a single and a strikeout, the final batter of the game send a line drive into center field and it was misplayed, allowing that runner to score all the way from first. Despite no earned runs allowed, Lujan was saddled with a blown save and a loss.

    In his second appearance of the week, Lujan was the first pitcher summoned in relief of Griffin Jax in Thursday’s loss to Glendale. Out for the start of the fifth, Lujan delivered a one-two-three inning, punctuating the effort with a strikeout for the third out. Back out for the sixth he got a ground out but followed it up with a walk and resulting in an end to his AFL season.

    Lujan could definitely take his time in the AFL as a learning experience as he faced stiffer competition than he ever had to this point in his minor league career. He was put into a tough spot in some games and things just didn’t go his way. He’s been very good in Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers the past two seasons, and he’ll see if he can continue that trend in Double A next year.

    Jaylin Davis: 2 games, 2-for-8, R, 2B (2), RBI, K; .279/.323/.311 (overall).

    To close out his AFL season, Davis also appeared in two games on the week and continued a positive second half of the schedule.

    In Monday’s loss to Peoria he batted seventh in the lineup and finished 1-for-4. His one-out double in the seventh led to him scoring the go-ahead run before the Javelina’s tied it in the ninth and win it in the tenth. It was his second double in the league.

    In their win on Wednesday against Glendale Davis again finished 1-for-4 while slotted sixth in the batting order. He was responsible for getting the Rafters on the scoreboard in the fourth inning, when his single drove in a runner to tie the game at one. Salt River made it interesting again in the bottom of the ninth, but the defense cut a tying runner down at home before finishing off the Desert Dogs and clinching their division.

    It was a tale of two halves for Davis in the AFL, as in the first three weeks of the season he combined to go 7-for-32 (.219) with one walk compared to an alarming fifteen strikeouts in eight games. But he then finished the final three weeks by going 10-for-29 (.345) with two doubles and two walks while only striking out six times in seven games. Like Blankenhorn, his OBP outpaced his slugging percentage and the overall numbers aren’t necessarily apparent, but the adjustments made by him were.

    Devin Smeltzer: 1 appearance, 0.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, BB; 5.87 ERA, 2.35 WHIP (overall).

    Smeltzer got just one appearance in the season’s final week and it’s probably one he’d like to forget before starting his offseason routine.

    It came in Monday’s extra-inning loss to the Javelina’s where he was the first man out of the bullpen after the Rafter’s starter went the first five innings. Salt River had a 2-0 lead at the time, and Smeltzer was greeted by a bunt that went for a single on his first pitch and maybe threw him off a little bit. He followed that by issuing a walk before a double tied the game at two. A single to the next batter brought an end to his outing in which he was charged with a blown save.

    Like his fellow reliever Lujan, Smeltzer can reflect on his time in the AFL as a great learning experience as he continues a transition into relief pitching. He got knocked around a little bit with a WHIP of 2.35 in only 7.2 innings but should have a good idea on what he can and can’t do against the more advanced hitters he might continue to face at Double A in 2019.

    Adam Bray: 2 appearances, 2.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 3 K; 2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP (overall).

    The reliever’s first appearance of the week came in Tuesday’s loss to Scottsdale, and it was of the multiple inning variety. With the game tied at zero in the fifth inning, he was summoned from the bullpen with two outs and a runner in scoring position. He got his man to end the threat and back out for the sixth he delivered a one-two-three inning including a pair of strikeouts. With his pitch count still low he again came out for the seventh and got the first man out (five in a row) before a couple of singles brought on another pitching change. That pitcher gave up a double to score both of the runners Bray was responsible for, so his line looks a little worse than it was. In total he went 1 2/3, allowing two runs on two hits while striking out two.

    In Thursday’s loss to the Desert Dogs Bray finished the game for the Rafters, again coming in from the bullpen in the middle of the inning. This time it was after Glendale had already scored two runs on a triple to take a 4-2 lead. With no outs and a runner on third, Bray got a ground out, strikeout, and a tapper back to him on the mound to keep the score as it was and finish his AFL season with a clean outing.

    Bray was the best performing of the Twins relievers sent to Arizona by far and one of the better one’s on the Rafters staff. His 13 2/3 innings pitched ranked second among his bullpen peers and his 2.63 ERA third. He went 1-0 in his 10 appearance and was also one of three relievers on the team to pick up a save. I’d expect the Minnesota native to get a crack at Double A to start next season.

    AFL Championship Game:

    With the Salt River Rafters crowned the East Division winners of the AFL, they faced off against the West winning Peoria Javelina’s in the title game on Saturday. Unfortunately, none of the Twins prospects appeared in the game, and hopefully that’s only because Tommy Watkins didn’t want to seem like he was playing favorites… (I kid) Maybe he should have though, as his team couldn’t quite close it out.

    The Rafters took an early 2-0 lead thanks to a pair of RBI singles while their starter, Jordan Yamamoto of the Miami Marlins, kept Peoria at bay for four innings. The first run came courtesy of Miami Marlins’ prospect Monte Harrison in the second, and they took a 2-0 lead in the fourth thanks to the Washington Nationals’ Daniel Johnson.

    Salt River took that 2-0 lead all the way into the bottom of the ninth inning, then things turned the other way for Peoria. A leadoff walk, double, and a wild pitch brought in the first run of the game for the Javelinas and with nobody out they had the tying run on third base before an RBI single brought the game into extra innings.

    It was the bottom of the tenth when Peoria walked it off in dramatic fashion. With one out, Atlanta Braves prospect Braxton Davidson stepped into the batter’s box, and did this:

    Along with an epic bat flip, Davidson also injured himself rounding the bases so instead of being able to celebrate with this teammates on the field and in the clubhouse, he was carted off to the hospital. Originally feared to be a broken foot, it luckily appears that is not the case.

    Congrats to the Peoria Javelina’s, and thank you for following the Twins prospects in the AFL with me!

    Please feel free to ask questions about the AFL and the players who were there!

    • Nov 21 2018 05:29 AM
    • by Steve Lein
  2. AFL Report - Week 5: Air Force Ace

    (This report includes the games played through 11/11)

    The standout of the week was a pitcher hailing from the Air Force Academy, who may have earned an “Ace” moniker for his start on Friday if striking out opposing hitters in a baseball game was treated the same as downing enemy fighter jets in dogfights.

    The Minnesota Twins pitching prospects in the AFL combined for a 3.96 ERA and 1.65 WHIP on the week while allowing four earned runs on eight hits and seven walks allowed and striking out twelve. Their two hitters finished just 3-for-18, slashing .167/.286/.222 with two RBI, but reversing a trend by walking more times (3) than they struck out (2) on the week.

    Keep reading to discover how each of the Twins prospects performed in the penultimate week of the AFL season!

    (links provided to each player’s overall AFL stats by clicking their name)

    Griffin Jax: 1 start, 5.0 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 1 ER, 5 K; 3.71 ERA, 1.35 WHIP (overall).

    Jax got the starting nod for his team on Friday as they faced off against the Mesa Solar Sox on the road and it was all about how he finished this one, putting together his longest and most impressive start of the AFL season.

    Mesa got their first at-bat against Jax started with a single from Detroit Tigers top prospect Daz Cameron who promptly stole second base to put himself in scoring position. A double a few batters later brought him in to tie the game at one, but that would be all the Solar Sox would muster against Jax on the game.

    He retired the next seven hitters in a row and 14 of the final 17 in his game after giving up that double, going hitless along the way with only two walks and a hit-by-pitch allowed. On the game he finished five innings, exiting the game with Salt River up 2-1. He threw 78 pitches in the outing with 44 going for strikes. 12 of those were of the swinging variety and he struck out five on the game, including Cameron twice and as his final out of the day to get some revenge. Unfortunately, Salt River went on to lose this one 5-4 after his solid outing.

    The next night during the AFL’s Military Appreciation Game, Jax was interviewed about what has gone on in his minor league career as he was an active duty member of the Air Force after he was drafted. Listening to the full interview (7 ½ minutes long) is worth it!

    Travis Blankenhorn: 3 games, 0-for-11, 2 BB, K, SB; .196/.317/.236 (overall).

    The infielder played in three games on the week with his first two starts coming at second base, and his final one coming in the outfield.

    In Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Scottsdale Scorpions Blankenhorn batted seventh in the lineup and finished 0-for-3. In the seventh inning with the score tied at two he drew a one-out walk and got into scoring position by stealing his third base of the year. He got as far as third base, but his teammates weren’t able to bring him all the way home to take the lead. In the eighth inning he helped do so in a different way, by being in the batter’s box when a wild pitch brought in the go-ahead run.

    The next day in an 8-7 loss to Peoria, Blankenhorn was slotted fifth in Tommy Watkin’s lineup, but it was just one of those days. He finished 0-for-5 with four of those outs coming on ground balls and was the only Rafters starter not to pick up a hit on the game.

    To end his week on Saturday he batted sixth and found himself playing left field for the second time in the AFL in a 7-2 loss to Mesa. He finished this one 0-for-3 with a strikeout but did draw a walk in the sixth inning when Salt River finally got on the scoreboard (he reached third base). The notable thing in this one, was Blankenhorn flashing some leather out in left:

    Along with any further experience in the outfield, he’ll look to get back to his hitting ways in the season’s final week!

    Hector Lujan: 2 appearances, 2.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R (1 earned), 2 BB, 3 K; 7.04 ERA, 1.96 WHIP (overall).

    Lujan’s first appearance of week five came in Monday’s 4-3 extra-inning victory against the Surprise Saguaros. He got the extra-inning and made it a little interesting, loading the bases with nobody out after a couple of walks, but buckled down and got the next three hitters without allowing a run to put his team in position to walk it off. When they did in the bottom half of the tenth, Lujan was credited with his first AFL win (1-0). His fastest pitch of the outing registered at 95.5 MPH per the Gameday gun.

    He wouldn’t pitch again until Friday when he and Adam Bray backed up Jax’s start against the Solar Sox. He came on for the bottom of the seventh with the score now tied at two, and he left with his team down by a pair. A leadoff double was followed by a single before he picked up a strikeout (Cameron’s third of the game), but a wild pitch play that also included a throwing error on Lujan allowed both runners to score. Perhaps a little ticked off, he got back to business and struck out the next two hitters to end his game. In total he was charged with two runs (one earned) along with picking up three K’s.

    Jaylin Davis: 2 games, 3-for-7, R, 2B (1), 2 RBI, BB, K; .283/.321/.302 (overall).

    The outfielder played in two games on the week, manning right field in Monday’s win versus Surprise and Wednesday’s loss against Peoria.

    In their extra-inning affair with the Saguaros, Davis picked up a sharp groundout in the bottom of the second to get the Rafters on the scoreboard and added another RBI with his first AFL double in the fourth when they were able to tie the game at three. He added a single to lead off the seventh to finish the game 2-for-4.

    On Wednesday Salt River scored first and led 7-5 going into the eighth inning with Davis doing his part, but the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead in the loss. Davis led off the fourth with a single and scored on a double from the next hitter that made it 5-4 Javelinas and followed that up by reaching base on a throwing error by the shortstop that allowed a run to score and gave the Rafters the lead in the fifth. In his final at-bat in the seventh he drew a two-out walk before Peoria took the game in the final two innings.

    Devin Smeltzer: 1 appearance, 0.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R (1 earned) 2 BB; 3.80 ERA, 1.97 WHIP (overall).

    After appearing in the Fall Stars Game last week, Smeltzer got in only one appearance, with it coming in Wednesday’s loss to Peoria. It was a bummer for him as well, as he contributed to his team losing their late two-run lead. Out front 7-5 going into the eighth, Smeltzer came on and promptly allowed a home run to the leadoff man. That was followed by a single, a sacrifice bunt, and two walks to load the bases before he was pulled. The Javelina’s went on to tie the game on an error a few batters later and ultimately took the lead in the ninth.

    Adam Bray: 2 appearances, 2.0 IP, 2 H, BB, 4 K; 1.64 ERA, 1.18 WHIP (overall).

    The Minnesota native got in on two games on the week, partnering with Lujan out of the bullpen on both Monday and Friday.

    In the win against Surprise he was the first reliever summoned to start the sixth with the game tied at three and made quick work of the Saguaros hitters. He retired them one-two-three, punctuating his outing with a strikeout on a full count fastball up in the zone.

    On Friday Bray relieved Jax for the sixth inning with the score 2-1 Rafters but left his starter with a no-decision after the first batter he faced doubled into center field and came around to score on a single a few batters later. He would be charged with his second blown save in the AFL but on the positive side, he recorded all three of his outs via strikeout and 19 of his 28 pitches went for strikes.

    Other AFL and Minor League Links:

    - Baseball America released their Top 10 Twins Prospect list for 2019 on Monday with former Pioneer Press beat writer Mike Berardino again taking the reins and chatting about it yesterday. His full article is behind their paywall, but you can also see how he ranked them and join the discussion about it here on Twins Daily.

    - Also included in Berardino’s chat, was an update on the status of outfielder Luke Raley. He left the game in the sixth inning way back on October 15th, and we now know that was due to a strained throwing shoulder (his left).

    - Another of the Twins M.I.A. prospects also had quite a big week, but it obviously wasn’t on a baseball field.

    Brent Rooker got married to his longtime girlfriend on Saturday, so as someone who just recently got engaged himself, congratulations to the happy couple!

    - Along with their Top 10 list, Baseball America has also been unveiling their Top 20 prospects in each league of the minors. Again, you’ll run into paywall blockades if you attempt to go further into each specific list but Royce Lewis is highlighted as the number one guy in each of the Midwest and Florida State League entries, and I’d imagine Alex Kirilloff isn’t far behind. Ryan Pressly trade acquisition Gilberto Celestino also tops the list for the New York-Penn League.

    Please feel free to ask questions about the AFL and the players who are there!

    • Nov 15 2018 10:23 AM
    • by Steve Lein
  3. AFL Report - Week 4: Hitters Breakout

    (This report includes the games played through 11/4)

    The Minnesota Twins group of pitching prospects combined to pitch eight innings on the week and allowed four earned on seven hits and seven walks, good for a 4.50 ERA and 1.75 WHIP. The hitters combined to go 9-for-22 with six runs scored and six RBIs, slashing .409/.458/.409 overall.

    To find out how all the prospects fared in week 4 of the AFL season, keep reading!

    (links provided to each player’s overall AFL stats by clicking their name)

    Griffin Jax: 1 start, W, 4.0 IP, 4 H, 4 BB, 3 ER, 3 K; 4.50 ERA, 1.58 WHIP (overall).

    Jax again made one start on the week, with his turn coming in Thursday’s 14-3 win over Glendale on the road. He finished four innings and was credited with his first AFL win, but it wasn’t a dominant effort by any means as he struggled a little with his command. He walked the first hitter of the game for the Desert Dogs, and that runner and another would come around to score in the first inning. He picked up a K to end any further threat. In the second frame he got another K for the first out, then walked another batter before getting the next two. In the third he allowed another run after the leadoff man singled, stole second base, then came around on another single. Jax finished his day by allowing a walk in the fourth, but no other runner reached base.

    In total he allowed the three earned runs on four hits and four walks while striking out three. Of his 76 pitches in the outing, 45 went for strikes including six swinging.

    Travis Blankenhorn: 2 games, 4-for-8, 3 R, 4 RBI, BB, 2 K; .250/.361/.300 (overall).

    Playing second base in two games on the week, Blankenhorn made an impact in both contests as his team won those games by a combined score of 22-7.

    In Tuesday’s 14-4 throttling of the Mesa Solar Sox, Blankenhorn batted sixth and made the most of his opportunities to drive runners in. In the second inning he got his team on the board with an RBI single and would score later as the Rafters jumped out to a 3-0 lead. In the third his sacrifice fly made it 4-3 and he added an RBI single in the fifth as Salt River started to pour it on. In addition to starting the Rafter’s scoring on the day, he also ended it with an RBI single in the eighth for the final tally of 14 runs on the game. In total he finished this one 3-for-4 with a run scored and four RBIs.

    Back in action on Friday for their 8-3 win over the Surprise Saguaros, Blankenhorn batted leadoff and made the most of his opportunities to score runs. He drew a walk to lead off the top of the third inning and would score a few batters later on a home run as Salt River took the early 2-0 lead. He singled in the top of the sixth and would trot home on a sacrifice fly for their eighth and final run of that game. He went 1-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored, and two K’s to finish off his week.

    Hector Lujan: 1 appearance, 1.0 IP, BB, K; 7.94 ERA, 1.94 WHIP (overall).

    With the week shortened by one game due to the Fall Stars game on Saturday, Lujan and the rest of the pitching staff only appeared in one league game each on the week. His opportunity came after Jax’s start and another Twins reliever’s appearance in Thursday’s win over Glendale.

    Out for the seventh inning with a 12-3 lead, Lujan got a couple of fly outs around a walk, then ended his inning with a swinging strikeout for a scoreless inning of work. He threw 19 pitches, with 12 going for strikes (two swinging).

    Jaylin Davis: 3 games, 5-for-14, 3 R, RBI, 4 K; .261/.292/.261 (overall).

    Among Twins prospects in week four, Davis saw the most action as he played in three games including right field twice and left field once.

    In Monday’s 12-3 blowout of the Mesa Solar Sox Davis had his best game of the AFL season, finishing 4-for-5 with three runs scored and an RBI. In the bottom of the first his two-out single scored the second run of the game for the Rafters, before the next batter made it 5-0 with a home run. In the third inning Davis beat out an infield single and then stole second base before scoring on a single that made it a 7-0 lead. He was left stranded after a single in the fifth but would score his third run of the game in the seventh inning after yet another single. On defense in the sixth, Davis ran down a ground ball single in right field and threw a strike back into second base to cut down the runner trying to stretch it into a double for another outfield assist.

    After a day off on Tuesday, Davis was in left field for the Rafters 12-6 loss on Wednesday to Glendale in extra innings. He was 1-for-4 with a strikeout, and his hit came in the bottom of the 10th inning after the Desert Dogs had scored six in the top half. He was also hit by a pitch in the game, so he reached base multiple times.

    Davis played in back-to-back games to end his week, going 0-for-5 in Salt River’s win over Glendale on Thursday. He struck out twice but also hit a couple of hard balls that turned into outs.

    Devin Smeltzer: 1 appearance, 1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R (1 earned) 0 BB, K; 2.57 ERA, 1.43 WHIP (overall).

    Smeltzer’s lone appearance with the Rafters came on Wednesday, and he was charged with a blown save before his team ended up losing in extra innings.

    He came on for the top of the eighth, with the Rafters up 5-4 at the time. He got the first man on a strikeout and a fly out for two quick outs, but consecutive doubles and an error on his defense led to a 6-5 lead for the Desert Dogs. He got a groundball to keep his team within one, and they would tie it in the bottom of the ninth, but extra innings didn’t go so well for his team. Of his 21 pitches, 16 went for strikes in the outing, including two swinging.

    He did make one other appearance on the week however, as he was the Twins lone representative in the Fall Stars Game on Saturday. He pitched 2/3 of an inning in the East squads 7-6 loss to the West. He came on to start the sixth inning and struck out the first two hitters he faced before issuing a walk and being removed from the game. The pitcher who followed proceeded to give up a single and a triple so Smeltzer ended up being charged with a run. Of his 16 pitches, eight went for strikes including four swinging. If not for the walk, it was a solid showing in the game for him with a lot of eyes watching.

    Adam Bray: 1 appearance, 2.0 IP, H, 2 BB, K; 1.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP (overall).

    After Jax went four innings in Wednesday’s win against the Desert Dogs, Bray came on for the fifth and pitched the next two frames. He allowed a single in the fifth, and two walks in the sixth, but was able to work around them, including ending his game with a strikeout to keep his team ahead 7-3. He threw 38 pitches total with 24 going for strikes (1 swinging).

    Also, this is pretty cool and shows that it’s not just all baseball for the prospects out in Arizona (or during the season, either):

    Other AFL and Minor League Links:

    - With the Fall Stars game likely be the biggest attraction of the AFL season, MLB.com went through their list of best tools appearing in the game. The Twins Devin Smeltzer got an honorable mention in the Best Control category.

    - Also in reference to that game, were MLB.com’s guide to all the player’s appearing from each team (Smeltzer’s AFL season so far briefly recapped) and their gamer on how it was won in walk-off fashion. There were multiple prospects to hit 100 MPH on pitches (including one at 104 from Nate Pearson of the Blue Jays), and Vlad Jr. also hits the ball really hard (if you didn’t know that, already).

    Oh, here’s the Mets’ Peter Alonso taking a Pearson 100+MPH fastball deep, as well:

    Please feel free to ask questions about the AFL and the players who are there!

    • Nov 13 2018 08:42 AM
    • by Steve Lein
  4. AFL Report - Week 3: Run, Travis, Run!

    (This report includes the games played through 10/28)

    The Minnesota Twins’ group pitching prospects put up a combined 3.60 ERA and 1.20 WHIP on the week in 10 innings pitched, while the two remaining hitting prospects combined to go just 5-for-24 with 10 strikeouts, but all the players had their moments on the week.

    Keep reading to find out just how much Blankenhorn had to run, and how all the other Twins prospects fared in Week 3 of the AFL season!

    (links provided to each player’s overall AFL stats by clicking their name)

    Brent Rooker: Will not play in AFL (ankle injury).

    As updated in last week’s AFL report, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com had an update on Rooker’s status as part of an interview with Travis Blankenhorn and updates on all the Twins prospects participating in the AFL. They’ve decided to shut him down due to his ankle injury rather send him out to Arizona for an abbreviated stay. Guess that means we will just have to wait until Spring Training to see him back in action!

    Griffin Jax: 1 start, 4.0 IP, 3 H, BB, 1 ER, 3 K; 3.38 ERA, 1.38 WHIP (overall).

    In their 6-5 loss to the Scottsdale on Thursday, Jax got the starting nod and did his part with four strong innings. He allowed one earned run on three hits and a walk while striking out three in the outing. He sent the Scorpions down in order in the third and his run allowed came with two outs in the second inning after his only walk was followed by a triple. The leadoff man for Scottsdale also started the game with a single, but Jax picked him off at first base later in the frame. He threw 53 pitches (31 for strikes), including six swinging strikes and recorded four groundouts compared to two flyouts on the game.

    When he was done the Rafters held a 4-1 lead, but their bullpen would implode in the seventh inning, allowing the Scorpions to score five runs and take the lead for good.

    Luke Raley: Did not play, removed from roster; .214/.333/.357 (overall).

    In the same article from Jonathan Mayo above, news first came out that Luke Raley had been removed from the Rafters roster. He was removed to start the bottom of the sixth inning in Salt River’s 13-4 loss against Peoria on 10/15, and that appears it will be it for the outfielder in the AFL.

    If I’m able to find any updates on the reason why he was removed (I’d assume an injury of some sort at this point), I’ll be sure to update you all!

    Hector Lujan: 2 appearances, 1 Hold, 2.0 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 2 ER, 2 K; 9.64 ERA, 2.14 WHIP (overall).

    Lujan and the rest of the Minnesota Twins reliever prospects made their first appearances of the week in Tuesday’s 7-5 win at home against the Surprise Saguaros. Lujan would come on for the eighth inning with the score 7-3 in favor of Salt River, but a single, ground-rule double, and an RBI groundout put closed that gap to three before he escaped further damage. Of his just 10 pitches in the inning, eight went for strikes as Saguaros hitters were aggressive, including top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who swung at the first pitch he saw and flew out to center field. Lujan topped out at 95.8 MPH on the Surprise gun in this one (it seems to be random which game of the day will log pitch speeds in the Gameday logs).

    His second appearance of the week came in Friday’s 9-2 win over Peoria and he was the first reliever summoned in this one with Salt River out front 3-1 through five innings. He was credited with a hold as he kept his team in front but did allow the second of the Javelina’s runs on the day. It came courtesy of a solo home run on his first pitch of the inning, but he responded well by retiring the next three hitters, including two strikeouts. Of his twelve pitches in this one, eight went for strikes including four swinging.

    Travis Blankenhorn: 4 games, 3-for-12, 6 R, 2B, RBI, 3 BB, 3 K, SB; .188/.316/.250 (overall).

    The infielder was very active again this week, as he appeared in four of his teams six games, starting it off with a bang on Tuesday against Surprise.

    Blankenhorn scored four of his team’s seven runs in the victory batting second in the lineup and playing second base. He had two hits in three at-bats along with drawing two walks that led to all that running. He scored all the way from first base on triples from Rockies prospect Tyler Nevin in both the first and fourth innings. In between he led off the third with a walk, stole second base, and then scored on a single. In the sixth he led off the inning with a single and would score two batters later. His two hits on the day also gave him a four-game hitting streak.

    His second game of the week was notable for other reasons than his hitting line, as he would finish 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the Rafters loss to Scottsdale on Thursday. It was noteworthy because he played the entire game in left field. This outfield exposure in the AFL comes after he logged 36 innings there for Fort Myers this past season. It will be interesting to see if his movement outside the infield diamond continues this fall and into next season.

    In Friday’s 9-2 win over Peoria Blankenhorn would again cross home plate multiple times despite a 0-for-3 game at the plate. Batting eight and back to playing second base, he led off the seventh by drawing a walk and would later score on a single. Then in the eighth he hit a grounder that was turned into a force out at second before a single brought him and another runner in for the Rafter’s final tally of nine runs.

    He would end his week by entering Saturday’s 11-5 loss to Peoria as a defensive replacement in the middle of the sixth inning. He would get a couple of at-bats in and made the most of his first one by delivering an RBI double into left field that gave Salt River the last of their five runs on the day. He reached first on another fielder’s choice in the eighth to finish 1-for-2.

    Devin Smeltzer: 2 appearances, 2.0 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 2 K; 1.50 ERA, 1.33 WHIP (overall).

    Smeltzer was the first of the Twins three relievers to appear in Tuesday win over the Saguaros, coming in for the seventh inning with the score 7-2 in favor of the Rafters. He struck out the first hitter he faced and got a ground ball for the first two outs, but consecutive doubles would score a run before his catcher caught the runner attempting to steal third for the final out. In his inning of work, he threw 18 total pitches with 12 going for strikes. He worked around 90 MPH with his fastball in this one.

    In Friday’s win against the Javelina’s, Smeltzer was the next man up after Lujan and pitched the seventh inning with the game now well in hand 7-2. He again struck out the first batter of the inning before allowing a single to the next batter. But he quickly erased the possibility of further threat by inducing a double-play ball to end the inning and his appearance after just 11 pitches (8 for strikes, 1 swinging).

    Jaylin Davis: 3 games, 2-for-12, R, BB, 7 K; .219/.242/.219 (overall).

    Davis had another quiet week, picking up two singles and a walk in his three games, but those also came with seven strikeouts including a golden sombrero effort in one of them.

    He was the only Twins prospect to appear in Monday’s 8-5 win versus the Saguaros, playing left field and batting eighth in the lineup. He would lead off the eighth inning with a single to finish 1-for-4 on the day, before being erased on a double-play to the next hitter. In the first inning of this one, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a ball to Davis in left, and regretted trying to stretch it into a double on him:

    Playing right field and batting sixth in Wednesday’s 10-9 win over the Scorpions, Davis finished 1-for-3 and scored a run in the sixth inning after drawing a walk that made it 7-5 Rafters. He struck out twice in this one.

    Friday’s effort as the DH batting fifth in the lineup is one he’d like to put behind him as quickly as possible even though his team was victorious in blowout fashion. In five trips to the plate he went down on strikes four times, including three swinging.

    Over the past two weeks Davis has struck out in 12 of his 23 at-bats so I’m sure he’ll be trying to cut those down and close out his AFL season on a positive note.

    Adam Bray: 2 appearances, 1 Save, 2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R (0 earned), 2 K; 1.29 ERA, 1.00 WHIP (overall).

    Bray was the final of the three Twins relievers to appear in Tuesday’s win over the Saguaros and tasked with closing out a three-run lead in the ninth inning. The leadoff man singled to start a rally, but a pop-out and a K got him one out away from picking up his first save in the AFL. Before he was able to coax a groundout to finish that off, a throwing error on a steal attempt and wild pitch resulted in an unearned run, but it was a Save all the same. Of his 14 pitches in this one, 10 went for strikes (2 swinging) and he sat around 90 MPH with his fastball on the day with his strikeout coming on a curveball toward the dirt.

    In Friday’s drumming of the Javelinas, Smeltzer again was summoned to finish the game, but no save would be in line as his team led by seven runs. He struck out the first hitter of the inning before giving up a single, but that would be it for his opponent as he quickly retired the next two hitters.

    Other AFL and Minor League Links:

    - The AFL’s Fall Stars Game rosters were announced on Monday, and the Twins Devin Smeltzer will be their lone representative on the East squad. It’s not really an “all-star” game in the sense of the league’s performers, but it’s always fun to see the level of prospect talent represented. Top hitting prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley highlight each roster and the game on Saturday in Surprise will include 13 of MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects.

    - MiLB.com’s fun “MiLBY Awards” are being handed out this week, and the Twins own Alex Kirilloff took home the honor as the staff pick for 2018’s Breakout Prospect. There’s a lot of good information in that link so definitely take a look, but the spray chart that reminds me of a Rorschach inkblot test is the best part in my opinion (behold the symmetry!).

    Please feel free to ask questions about the AFL and the players who are there!

    • Oct 30 2018 10:32 PM
    • by Steve Lein
  5. Arizona Fall League Preview: Rooker Highlights Twins Prospects

    I spent an autumn night this time last year at Target Field with all my friends watching the Minnesota Twins fall to the New York Yankees in the Wild Card game, but unfortunately the team didn’t continue trending upward as they fell well-short of the playoffs in 2018. The young guys on the team that were supposed to boost them forward never seemed got their footing during the season, and so we’ll have to wait at least another year to get back to that place.

    It’s still those young players that will get them there however, and for many of the game’s prospects the fall brings with it more than just the start of their offseason vacations. Many of them will keep playing in the various winter leagues, and they begin with the Arizona Fall League where many of the game’s top players once played. The list of current Twins players who have appeared in the AFL includes the likes of Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, Mitch Garver, Taylor Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger, and most recently Stephen Gonsalves and Andrew Vasquez. The 2018 season kicks off at 1:35 CST this afternoon and eight Twins prospects will be participating.

    For anyone who doesn’t know, the AFL is a short season league where every team in Major League Baseball sends some of their prospects in October. It is often used as a proving ground for players looking to take the final steps to their MLB dreams. Many of the top prospects in baseball are sent here to make a final impression for a call-up next year, but there are also many experienced minor leaguers on the doorstep who are evaluated for protection on the 40-man roster, or those trying to make up some development time after an injury. These minor league games in October can determine a lot going into the next MLB season for these players, and that’s why I love following the league so closely.

    Each MLB team typically sends around seven players to the AFL, and they are split up among the six teams that make up the league. This year the Minnesota Twins prospects will be represented on the roster of the Salt River Rafters, with pitchers Adam Bray, Griffin Jax, Hector Lujan, and Devin Smeltzer; and position players Brent Rooker, Travis Blankenhorn, Jaylin Davis, and Luke Raley. They will join prospects from the rosters of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins, and Washington Nationals. In a little bit of extra-fun news for Twins aficionados, Chattanooga Lookouts manager Tommy Watkins will also make the trip and serve as the Rafters manager.

    Of the seven players sent to the AFL last year for Minnesota, only one managed to make their MLB debut with the Twins during the 2018 season. That was reliever Andrew Vasquez, who was also named Twins Daily’s 2018 Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. That was a low total for Twins prospects in the AFL making their MLB debut the next season in recent history, but hopefully 2018’s group can get that back on track.

    Each week I’ll be recapping the action for all the Twins representatives during their time in the desert of Arizona, so who are the players they sent? How have their careers gone thus far and what will I be looking for from each of them in the AFL this October?

    2018 Minnesota Twins Prospects in the AFL:

    Brent Rooker, OF/1B/DH (23 years old)

    Drafted at number 35 overall in 2017 after a collegiate season in which he won the SEC triple crown, Rooker continued his power surge as a pro by clubbing 18 homers in 62 games between Elizabethton and Fort Myers. His prospect helium followed him to Chattanooga this year with high expectations. He started out slow but heated up with the weather by OPS-ing over 1.000 in the months of June and July. His 22 home runs ranked second in the Southern League, while his 79 RBIs paced the circuit. Although he didn’t really improve his strikeout rate as the year wore on, he did start connecting with more authority and drawing more walks. Despite the power he possesses, he batted number two in the lineup for basically the entire season with the Lookouts.

    Rooker will look to get back toward those midsummer numbers, as he hit below .200 over his final 30 games on the year with just two home runs. Despite that, Rooker is likely the most highly regarded of the Twins prospects participating in the AFL this year and could slot in the middle of the Rafters lineup. Twins Daily ranked him at #7 in our Midseason Top Prospect List and is a shoe-in for a spring training invite and promotion to Triple A to start in 2019. This is where the AFL season could be interesting for the slugger.

    The Twins have opportunities at all the positions Rooker has played as a professional including the outfield, first base, and designated hitter. A strong showing in the desert could only help his cause in relation to an early MLB debut next year. Something I’ll be watching for is if he can cut down a little on his strikeouts in a six-week sample size, while also continuing to provide some of his prodigious power.

    Griffin Jax, RHP (23)

    The Twins selected Jax in the third round of the 2016 draft out of the Air Force Academy in Colorado. This made his professional development somewhat of a challenge in his first two seasons. He was able to appear in just four games with Elizabethton after being drafted before he was required to fulfill service obligations, and then in 2017 the Department of Defense reversed a policy that allowed graduates to pursue professional sports after graduating, putting his career back on hold after just five games. Fortunately for him and the Twins, that changed early in the 2018 season.

    Jax was accepted into the military’s “World Class Athlete Program,” which meant his job with the Air Force became training for the Olympics in baseball which would be coming back for the 2020 games. Jax reported to extended spring training in late April and made his debut with the Fort Myers Miracle on June 1st. That was one of only 3 games through the end of the year where he did not complete at least five innings. His next seven starts were all of the quality variety, and overall 11 of his 15 games were of that type (he went the final six innings in an Ervin Santana rehab start for one of those games). He finished the year with a 3.70 ERA and 66/15 K to BB ratio in 87 2/3 innings for the Miracle.

    The AFL season will help Jax make up some of the development time he’s had to miss and could also be a strong barometer to determine where he’ll start the 2019 season in the state of Florida —back with Fort Myers on the gulf side of the peninsula or along the northern panhandle in Pensacola. I’ll want to see Jax continue to post a strong walk-rate against what could be the best competition he’s faced to this point, as well as continuing the consistency start-to-start that he showed with the Miracle to make his case.

    Travis Blankenhorn, IF (22)

    Selected in the third round of the 2015 draft out of Pottsville High School in Pennsylvania, Blankenhorn came in at number 13 in Twins Daily’s 2018 midseason top prospect list. Over the past two seasons with Cedar Rapids in 2017 and Fort Myers in 2018 he has split his time almost equally between third base and second base on defense. Touted for future power potential when drafted, Blankenhorn looks the part and even won the Florida State League home run derby this year, but hasn’t quite manifested it in games as much as he’d like yet. He hit 13 home runs in 118 games with the Kernels and added 11 homers this year with the Miracle. Unfortunately, his slugging percentage dipped from .441 to .387 in 2018, and his OPS fell below the .700 mark in the pitcher friendly confines of the FSL. He started the year off quite well, hitting .305/.347/.537 in April, but from there he only hit over .250 in one other month and his highest monthly OPS was just .645. Surprisingly, Blankenhorn did still lead the Miracle in doubles, triples, home runs, and RBI.

    The 2019 season will be Blankenhorn’s fifth in the organization and his time in the AFL could have a bearing on if he moves up to AA to start the year or finds himself back in Fort Myers looking to improve upon his prior year in the opening months. During his time in the AFL it will be interesting to see if he sticks at just one position or continues to be moved around. I’ll also be paying attention to his extra-base hit totals for an indication that his slugging numbers will rebound whenever he is promoted out of the FSL.

    Hector Lujan, RHP (24)

    Like Blankenhorn, Lujan came to the Twins organization courtesy of the 2015 draft when he was selected in the 35th round. He was drafted out of Westmont College, where he was teammates with Andrew Vasquez who pitched in the AFL last year before making his major league debut with the Twins in 2018. Lujan will hope to follow that same path during the 2019 campaign.

    Lujan spent the 2017 season entirely with the Cedar Rapids Kernels and was a standout in their bullpen. In 54 innings he amassed 17 saves while posting a 1.33 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. He struck out a hitter per inning and was stingy with walks as he allowed just eight on the year. Moving on to Fort Myers for the 2018 campaign, Lujan was used more as a multi-inning weapon, as he appeared in four fewer games but pitched 17 2/3 more innings. He saved four games along with striking out 68 in 71 2/3 total innings pitched. He walked more hitters and raised his WHIP to 1.26 in the FSL, but still posted a solid 2.64 ERA with the Miracle.

    The competition inthe AFL will be a solid test for Lujan, but no matter how he fares he should find himself ticketed for AA to start in 2019. I’ll be watching to see if his career neutral splits against lefties (.625 OPS against in 2018) and righties (.641 OPS against) hold true in the AFL and if he’s used for multiple innings to try to maximize that trait. Lujan is also eligible for the Rule 5 draft this offseason, so could be making his case to be protected on the 40-man roster.

    Devin Smeltzer, LHP (23)

    Smeltzer was one of the pieces that came to the Twins organization in the Brian Dozier swap with the Dodgers at the deadline. He was drafted by the Dodgers in the fifth round of the 2015 draft and while he’s struck out over a hitter per inning in his career, he’s also given up a bunch of hits to limit his upside. Midway through the 2018 season L.A. transitioned him to the bullpen in AA, and that is where he remained after coming over to Minnesota. With Chattanooga he made 10 appearances totaling 12 innings pitched, logging a 3.00 ERA and 1.33 WHIP while striking out sixteen and walking just two.

    Since he is so new to the relief pitching routine, the AFL will be a fantastic environment for him to learn any tricks of the trade from a bevy of new coaches and teammates. As a former starter he had also been using a full pitching repertoire, so I’ll be curious to see if I can pick out whether he has dumped any pitches to focus on his best ones, which includes a plus changeup.

    Luke Raley, OF (24)

    Also coming over from the Dodgers in that same trade, was outfielder Luke Raley who had an excellent season at the AA level in 2018. His .822 OPS ranked seventh in the Texas League and he started at DH in their All-Star Game, where he was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. He didn’t come over to the Twins early enough to be considered for our midseason prospect list, but MLB.com has slotted him at number 19 in their updated top 30. In 27 games after being placed on the Lookouts roster, Raley slashed .276/.371/.449 with three homers and 16 RBI. Before that he hit 17 home runs with the Tulsa Drillers, but he’s not all just home run power either. His 47 extra-base hits on the year included 19 doubles and 8 triples, helping him rack up 80 runs scored on the season after totaling 102 in the California League the year prior (ranked second). He’s also a solid outfielder with a strong arm who with can handle center field if needed and has also played first base.

    He strikes me as having the makeup and profile that could turn into leadoff hitter with some power in the future which sounds a lot like the guy the Twins traded away to get him, but to reach that type of ceiling Raley is going to have to cut down some on the strikeouts while also drawing a few more walks. I’ll be very interested to see how Raley follows up his excellent 2018 season in Arizona as he readies himself for triple-A next season and establishes himself in the organizational depth chart.

    Jaylin Davis, OF (24)

    Davis was selected in the 24th round of the 2015 draft but didn’t make his debut until the following season as he recovered from a torn labrum he suffered during the college season with Appalachian State. He started his professional career with an astounding seven home runs in just twelve games with Elizabethton before they bumped him up to Cedar Rapids. He finished the year with an .808 OPS with the Kernels and continued that success the next year, earning his way to Fort Myers where he finally had some struggles. He started the 2018 season back with the Miracle but again earned himself a midseason promotion as he upped his OPS significantly by both drawing more walks and clubbing more extra-base hits. With the Chattanooga Lookouts he kept that same theme going, finishing with a better OPS than he had in Fort Myers.

    I’d venture Davis will start next year back in AA, but a strong showing in the AFL could accelerate his timeline to AAA. As a corner outfielder who has played almost exclusively right field the past two seasons, the pop he’s shown thus far is going to have to continue trending upward to crack a crowded Twins outfield situation and that is what I’ll be looking for from Davis in the AFL.

    Adam Bray, RHP (25)

    Another one of the several 2015 draftees who will be eligible in the Rule 5 draft this winter, Bray does hold a distinction that none of the others do: He is #OneOfUs. He went to high school in Eden Prairie and was part of their 2011 team that won the American Legion National Championship. He also was the winning pitcher on the team that won the 2010 State Championship at Target Field. He went to college at South Dakota State University and is now the record holder in several categories there as a pitcher. Seth Stohs also caught up with him earlier this year to talk about those things and the rest of his career to that point, so be sure to check that out.

    Bray finally got on the mound in late June with the Fort Myers Miracle and was fantastic through the end of the season. He made 19 appearances totaling 38 1/3 innings out of the bullpen, posting a 1.88 ERA and 1.10 WHIP while striking out 9.4 per nine innings pitched. He also surrendered just seven walks as he maintained the upper echelon control and command he’s been known for (1.5BB/9IP for his career).

    Since he was on the disabled list for the first three months of the season Bray will be looking to make up some development time in the AFL and could also be a good gauge to determine his readiness for AA. I’ll want to see him maintain that low walk-rate along with striking out at least a hitter an inning. That’s a good formula for anybody, but it’s one Bray will need to keep up with due to his command and control profile as he continues his climb up the minor league ladder.

    Good luck to all the Twins players in the AFL this season, and I’m looking forward to following along with everyone at Twins Daily! Also, if there is anything specific you would like to see included in these recaps, let me know and I’ll see if I can work any such ideas into these recaps. Here is a link to last year’s final one to get an idea of what to expect!

    Other AFL and Minor League Links:

    -If you haven't already checked it out, Seth's conversations with all these guys playing in the AFL is must read material.

    -The Minnesota Twins announced their 2018 Minor League players of the year, with Alex Kirilloff taking home the player award, and Lewis Thorpe the pitcher. Congratulations to both!

    -MLB.com went through the biggest movers in their end of year prospect rankings, and Kirilloff tops the list as he moved from number 30 all the way to the top 10.

    -With the AFL season kicking off, MLB.com also picked out the top prospect from each team going, with Brent Rooker checking that box for the Twins. They did the same for sleeper prospects, with Griffin Jax the Twins selection.

    -After partnering with the Chattanooga Lookouts for the past four seasons, the Twins will be moving their double-A affiliation for the 2019 season to the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, also of the Southern League. It sounds like a good step up in facilities for the organization, as the stadium was built in 2012 and is located on the harbor of the Gulf of Mexico.

    Please feel free to ask any questions about the AFL or the players who are there!

    • Oct 09 2018 07:40 PM
    • by Steve Lein
  6. Watkins, Players Excited For AFL Opportunity

    Sure, he played for the Twins in the big leagues for a little while, but as a player, Tommy Watkins never had the opportunity to play in the Arizona Fall League. However, the 38-year-old former infielder turned minor league hitting coach turned minor league manager learned in late July that he will lead the Salt River Rafters through their Fall League schedule. It’s an opportunity that Watkins is looking forward to.

    “The opportunity to manage in the Fall League means a lot to me. The responsibility to coach our prospects, as well as prospects from other teams, is an honor. I am humbled that the Twins trust me with this role, and I plan to work tirelessly to exceed the expectations of the Twins, my fellow coaches and my players.

    Like the players in the Fall League, the managers and coaches are also trying to work on their crafts and learn from others.

    “For coaches and players, the Fall League is the perfect setting to grow and learn while turning heads and having some fun in the process. Personally, I am looking forward to being reunited with some of my former players, developing all the players on our team and learning from the other coaches on my staff.”

    Watkins will be tasked with managing an entire team, but for the Twins Daily audience, you’ll primarily want to know which Twins prospects he will be managing. The Twins announced in late August that they are sending eight players to the Arizona Fall League. They are sending hitters Brent Rooker, Luke Raley, Travis Blankenhorn and Jaylin Davis. Four Twins minor league pitchers will also be pitching in the Fall League. They include RHP Griffin Jax, Adam Bray, Hector Lujan, and LHP Devin Smeltzer.

    Soon after Watkins learned he would be the manager, he was able to inform some of his Chattanooga Lookouts players that they would be joining him.

    Brent Rooker noted, “I got the to the park early one day in Chattanooga and Tommy had just found out that he would be managing and I got an invite. He called me into his office and gave me the news.”

    For the players in Ft. Myers with the Miracle, they were told by Twins minor league director Jeremy Zoll.

    Hector Lujan said, “I learned about the Fall League through our farm director Jeremy Zoll. Waking up to a text from him saying if there was a spot for me if I’d like to participate in the Fall League. It was a pretty exciting start to the day! ”

    When the initial rosters were announced, hard-throwing lefty reliever Alex Robinson was on the list. He had been placed on the Disabled List by the Miracle in late August with some shoulder issues.

    In his place, right-handed pitcher Adam Bray, the Minnesotan who came to the Twins in a March trade from the Dodgers. Bray didn’t hesitate, “I was invited by our farm director. He asked me if I would be interested, and I immediately said ‘Yes’!”

    Bray understands that it is an honor to get the chance to play in the AFL. “I am very excited and honored to be chosen to play and represent the Minnesota Twins in the AFL! I have heard that you are playing against very good competition and that it’s a big honor to get selected for this.”

    While the Fall League isn’t just about top prospects, it is a strong gathering of talent from around baseball. For instance, players from countries that have a Winter League are not able to participate without getting a waiver from their Winter League team. However, there are exceptions. Several years ago, the Twins got approval from Eddie Rosario’s team in Puerto Rico and he played in the AFL.

    Players are excited about the opportunity to play in the Arizona environment.

    Another former Dodgers prospect, who came to the Twins on July 31st with Luke Raley in exchange for Brian Dozier, is Devin Smeltzer. He noted, “I’ve heard it’s an awesome experience on and off the field. Best of the best competition. Really looking forward to it.”

    Travis Blankenhorn said, “I’m thrilled the Twins are giving me the opportunity to represent the organization in the Fall League. I’ve heard some things about the AFL, and they were all good, so I am looking forward to heading out there.”

    Due to some first-hand stories, Jaylin Davis is excited to be in the Fall League too. “I’m really excited about getting the opportunity to get to play in the AFL. I played with some guys this season that went last year. So I got a chance to pick their brain a little and ask them about their experiences.”

    Lujan is looking forward to participating in the AFL for several reasons. “My thoughts for the Fall League are that I think it’s a great opportunity to get new experiences and to be able to compete with other players from different organizations. I think it’s a challenge in a good, but I believe it should be a great learning experience for myself and my fellow teammates that are participating as well. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Fall League.”

    And knowing his AFL manager and having played for him before doesn’t hurt either. “I heard that it’s a very fun atmosphere and knowing that Tommy Watkins is going to be our manager makes it very exciting too since he was my manager last year in Cedar Rapids. It should overall be a great time.”

    Rooker’s thoughts pretty well sum up what the entire group thinks. “It’s a very exciting opportunity. Obviously there’s a ton of talent in the league so it will be a lot of fun getting to compete against some really good competition. Everyone I’ve talked to says it’s one of the most fun baseball experiences they’ve ever had. I’m really looking forward to it.”

    But it is more than just a fun experience. It is an opportunity to showcase their skills, not only for the Twins but for the other 29 MLB clubs who will have coaches, scouts and front-office types at the games. 40-man roster decisions can be made on some players based on seeing something. Some players are sent to the AFL to work on specific things.

    Travis Blankenhorn is choosing to keep things simple for himself. “I am looking forward to playing and just going out there and giving it my all.”

    Adam Bray’s looking forward to testing himself. “There are always things to work on. I think facing good competition and being challenged in this league is going to be what I am looking forward to!”

    Same thing for Jaylin Davis, “I think the biggest thing for me is going out there and getting to compete against some really good guys.”

    Hector Lujan, the Twins 2017 Harmon Killebrew Award winner for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, is looking to work on a new pitch, but also continue to by a positive influence in the community.

    “The Twins have discussed things to work on, and I also have things in mind that I want to work on. I would like to work on my splitter to get more comfortable throwing it, and continue to keep developing consistency on my pitches, and just to continue to keep doing what I can to develop myself as a pitcher. Hopefully I can reach out to the community and kids around the neighborhoods we will be playing. Just over all really excited for this!”

    Devin Smeltzer was drafted as a starter and was a full-time starter in his first full season of pro baseball last year. He began the 2018 season as a starter as well, but when the calendar turned to July, the Dodgers moved him to the bullpen. All ten of his appearances with the Lookouts this year came out of the bullpen as well. So, it may not be surprising to hear what he wants to work on and work through.

    “For me it’s just to get more experience out of the bullpen, see some high competition, and enjoy the experience.”

    Brent Rooker started 46 games at first base in Chattanooga in 2018. He also made 44 starts out in left field. He’ll obviously continue to work on his offense, but he will also get more opportunities to work on his defense too.

    “I think the plan is for me to play outfield while I’m there. So it’ll be a great opportunity for me to just continue to get more reps and experience in left field. Doing that, along with getting the at-bats against some of the best arms in the minor leagues, should put me in a good place developmentally going into next season.”

    The Arizona Fall League’s final regular season game will be Thursday, November 15th. The championship game will be on Saturday, November 17th.

    Rooker may have an opportunity to represent the Twins in the Bowman Hitting Challenge on Saturday, October 13th. He also is a likely participant in the November 3rd Fall Stars Game. However, if the Rafters make it to the championship game, Rooker will not be able to participate. But he’s got a good reason. He’s getting married. He said he will just have to “leave Arizona about five days early.”

    The AFL season starts next Tuesday. Steve Lien will again be providing weekly updates throughout the AFL season, so be sure to check back often to see how this group is performing.

    • Oct 04 2018 08:51 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  7. Twins Minor League Report (9/10): Miracle Win Florida State League Championship

    Congratulations to the Florida State League champion Ft. Myers Miracle!

    Ft. Myers 8, Daytona 5
    Box Score

    The Miracle begin their Florida State League playoff series on Tuesday night.

    What a performance by right-hander Edwar Colina! Promoted to the Miracle for one regular season start, Colina has done well with the Miracle and he came up huge for them on Monday night. The right-hander gave up three second inning runs, but it came with the help of two errors which made all three runs unearned. He kept pitching and worked a total of 6 2/3 innings. He gave up just the three unearned runs on two hits. He walked four and struck out six.

    Having fallen behind 3-0 after two innings, the Miracle responded very well right away in the top of the third. Jose Miranda and Travis Blankenhorn each singled in a run to cut the deficit to 3-2. With two outs, Ryan Costello drilled a three-run homer to push the lead to 5-3.

    Alex Kirilloff led off the fifth inning with a double. After a walk, Travis Blankenhorn advanced the runners with a bunt. He was also safe at first on an error. Caleb Hamilton grounded out to score a run. With two outs, Shane Carrier knocked in two runs with a single to give the Miracle an 8-3 lead.

    Adam Phillips came on and got the final out of the seventh inning. He came back out for the eighth frame. With one out, he gave up a single. It was followed by a two-run homer off the bat of Ibandel Isabel. He led the Florida State League with 35 home runs during the regular season. After a walk, a hard-hit grounder hit the mound and bounced right to Travis Blankenhorn who completed a double play to end the inning and end the threat.

    Hector Lujan came on for the ninth inning. After a fly out, he gave up a single. However, for the second straight inning, a ground ball to Travis Blankenhorn resulted in an inning-ending double play, which was also a game-ending and championship-winning double play!

    Congratulations to the Ft. Myers Miracle!

    Twins Daily Hitter of the Day: Ryan Costello, Ft. Myers Miracle (2-4, HR, 3 RBI).
    Twins Daily Pitcher of the Day: Edwar Colina, Ft. Myers Miracle (6.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 K)

    Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Midseason Top 20 Twins Prospects performed.
    #1 - Royce Lewis (Ft. Myers) - 1-4, BB, R
    #2 - Alex Kirilloff (Ft. Myers) - 1-5, 2B, R
    #3 - Brusdar Graterol (Ft. Myers) - Did not pitch
    #13 - Travis Blankenhorn (Ft. Myers) - 1-3, 2 R, RBI, SH
    #15 - Ben Rortvedt (Ft. Myers) - Did not play
    #21 - Jose Miranda (Ft. Myers) - 1-4, BB, 2 R, RBI


    No more Games Scheduled (until the Arizona Fall League.

    Please feel free to ask any questions about Monday’s game, or ask any questions you may have.

    • Sep 10 2018 10:43 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  8. Twins Minor League Report (9/8): Miracle Coast to Victory, Kernels Fall Late

    Fort Myers 12, Daytona 2 (Game 2 of the FSL Championship Series)
    Box Score

    W: Griffin Jax (6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K)
    HR: Royce Lewis
    Multi-hit games: Travis Blankenhorn (3-for-4, 2B, BB), Alex Kirilloff (2-for-5, 2B), Jose Miranda (2-for-5, 2B), Taylor Grzelakowski (2-for-5, 2B), Ryan Costello (2-for-4, BB)

    The Miracle lineup took all the suspense out of this one. They hung an eight-spot on the board in the first inning, followed that up with two more runs in the second and cruised to victory in Game 2 of the Florida State League Championship Series.

    Fort Myers had four runs and knocked out the opposing starting pitcher before they even recorded an out. Royce Lewis led things off by reaching on an error. He would come around to score. The Miracle batted around, and in his second at-bat of the inning Lewis hit a three-run homer.

    Griffin Jax set the tone in the top of the first by striking out the side, but he switched over into cruise control from there. He gave the Miracle 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball, giving up six hits while issuing just one walk. He finished with six strikeouts.

    Kevin Marnon took over from there and shut out the Tortugas over the final 2 1/3 innings. Marnon did exactly what you’d want from a pitcher in that situation. He threw 22 of his 29 pitches for strikes (75.9 percent).

    Lewis had the big blow, but this blowout was a great team effort. Five Miracle hitters had multi-hit games and Travis Blankenhorn reached safely in four of his five plate appearances. Fort Myers also combined to go 6-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

    Fort Myers now leads the series 2-0, meaning they’re just one victory away from winning the FSL title. Brusdar Graterol gets the start for the Miracle.

    Peoria 5, Cedar Rapids 3 (Game 1 of the MWL Semifinals)
    Box Score

    SP: Bryan Sammons (6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K)
    HR: None
    Multi-hit games: David Banuelos (3-for-4, 2 2B), Michael Helman (2-for-5)

    Bryan Sammons was outstanding and the Cedar Rapids lineup built an early lead, but Peoria just wouldn’t go away. Sammons held the Chiefs to two hits over six shutout innings and struck out six batters. He exited with the Kernels up 2-0.

    Zach Neff took over in the seventh and pitched a clean inning. He went back out for the eighth but things didn’t go so well, as Peoria scored three runs in the top of the eighth to go up 3-2. Cedar Rapids managed to tie the game up in the bottom of the inning, but the Chiefs responded with two more runs off Jose Martinez in the ninth.

    The Kernels had plenty of opportunities to score more runs, as they tallied 12 hits and drew five walks on the night. They left the bases loaded in both the first and third innings. The sixth ended with runners on second and third base. They got a lead-off walk from Gabriel Maciel in the eighth, but he made the first out of the inning at home plate, trying to score on a double. They left the bases loaded up again that inning.

    Tough way to lose a ballgame, tough way to open up a series. The Kernels now face elimination tomorrow night at Peoria. If they survive, a decisive Game 3 will be played at Peoria Monday.

    Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day: Bryan Sammons, Cedar Rapids
    Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day: Travis Blankenhorn, Fort Myers

    Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed

    1. Royce Lewis (FM): 1-for-5, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R
    2. Alex Kirilloff (FM): 2-for-5, 2B, 2 R
    6. Trevor Larnach (CR): 1-for-5, K
    8. Akil Baddoo (CR): 0-for-2, 3 BB
    13. Travis Blankenhorn (FM): 3-for-4, 2B, BB, 2 RBI, 3 R
    18. Ryan Jeffers (CR): 1-for-5, RBI, 2 K
    19. Jacob Pearson (CR): 1-for-1, RBI (as a pinch hitter)

    Fort Myers at Daytona, 4:35 pm CT: Brusdar Graterol
    Cedar Rapids at Peoria, 4:00 pm CT: Blayne Enlow

    Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss the games.

    • Sep 08 2018 09:46 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  9. Twins Minor League Report (8/28): Miracle Close In On Playoffs With Walk-Off in Extras


    There were a few roster moves and an All-Star announcement in the system on Tuesday:

    • In Chattanooga, infielder Sean Miller was released. No corresponding move was made at this time. Miller was a 10th-round pick for the Twins in the 2015 draft out of South Carolina.
    • It was busy in Fort Myers, as the Twins signed pitcher Alex Phillips out of the independent Frontier League and assigned him to the Miracle where he would play a part in their game. They also placed Taylor Grzelakowski on the 7-day disabled list while activating Shane Carrier.
    Kennys Vargas was named an International League Postseason All-Star, and slots as the designated hitter on the roster. Vargas has been fantastic of late, with 20 hits including five home runs and 18 RBI since August 14th (14 games).

    Game 1: Buffalo 4, Rochester 5 (seven innings)
    Box Score

    In their regularly scheduled game, the Red Wings used one big inning and a timely hit from Byron Buxton late to secure a victory.

    Zack Littell made the start for Rochester, and completed six of the game’s seven innings. He allowed a single run in each of the first and third innings, then two in the fourth to tie the game. He gave his offense a chance by holding the Bisons scoreless in his final two innings, including striking out the last two hitters he faced with a runner in scoring position. He ended up with a win to even his record at 6-6 on the season when the home team struck in the bottom half of his final frame.

    The game was tied as the Red Wings lineup strung together five hits and a sacrifice fly in the third inning that was good for four runs of their own. Alex Perez, Byron Buxton, and Nick Gordon loaded the bases with singles to start it, Gregorio Petit drove in two of them with a double, then an RBI single from LaMonte Wade and sac fly from Zander Wiel finished it. In the bottom of the sixth Juan Graterol doubled to put himself in scoring position, then with two outs Buxton traded places with him for the deciding run.

    Lefty Andrew Vasquez got his first save opportunity since being promoted to Triple A in the top of the seventh, and while it got interesting, escaped a no-out situation with runners on second and third to record his first save with Rochester. He struck out the final two hitters to do so after fantastic barehanded fielder’s choice play from Petit at third base to cut a runner down at home:

    The top of the Red Wings lineup (Buxton, Gordon, Petit) combined to go 6-for-11 with three runs scored, four doubles, and three RBI on the game. Wade and Graterol also picked up multiple hits.

    Game 2: Buffalo 4, Rochester 6 (seven innings, makeup of 4/8 postponement)
    Box Score

    In game two, a makeup of a postponement due to snow all the way back in early April, Rochester pitched a bullpen game. D.J. Baxendale started and finished the first 2 1/3 innings. He allowed one run in the second and ran into some more trouble in the third, finishing with two runs allowed on five hits and a walk. He struck out one.

    Nick Anderson got his team through the fifth inning, allowing one run on two hits and a walk in 2 2/3, striking out four. He notched his seventh win of the season. John Curtiss closed out the final two innings for his tenth save. He gave up a run on a solo-homer that made it the final of 6-4, but also struck out two.

    The Red Wings runs came courtesy of RBI doubles from Jeremy Hazelbaker and Alex Perez in the second inning, a two-run double from Kennys Vargas and RBI single from Hazelbaker in the third, and finally an RBI single from Nick Gordon in the fifth. They racked up eleven hits as a team with Gordon leading the way with a 3-for-4 showing, along with multiple hits from Gregorio Petit (2-for-4, R, 2B) and Hazelbaker (2-for-3, R, 2B, 2 RBI).

    Jacksonville 9, Chattanooga 2
    Box Score

    Tyler Jay got the opener role in this one and delivered a scoreless first inning. He gave up one hit and struck out one leading into ‘starter’ Sean Poppen’s game. The Jumbo Shrimp jumped all over Poppen and the Lookouts were not able to recover.

    Although he finished four innings, Poppen’s line included seven runs (six earned) on ten hits and one walk in his time. He struck out three and allowed two home runs. Anthony Marzi came on for the sixth and would finish 1 2/3, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks along with picking up two K’s. Sam Clay finished the seventh and added a scoreless eighth, striking out four of the five hitters he faced. Williams Ramirez finished off the game for the home team with a one-two-three ninth, striking out one.

    On offense Chattanooga tallied seven hits and two walks, but they didn’t lead to many scoring opportunities as they were just 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position and grounded into four double plays. Jordan Gore collected multiple hits with a 2-for-3 night. Brent Rooker finished 1-for-4 while an Andy Wilkins home run and Jimmy Kerrigan sac fly led to their only runs.

    It was the Lookouts final home game of the season and they close it out with a five-game set across the state of Tennessee in Jackson starting on Thursday.

    Bradenton 1, Fort Myers 2 (10 innings)
    Box Score

    The Miracle’s tilt with the Marauders on Tuesday was a good old-fashioned pitcher’s duel, with the score being just 1-0 Fort Myers heading into the top of the ninth inning.

    Starting for the home team was Andro Cutura, and he delivered six scoreless innings in his start, scattering five hits and one walk while striking out five. In the sixth, he worked around a hit-by-pitch and a double to start the inning by getting a shallow fly out and two K’s to end his night.

    The Miracle took the 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third after Travis Blankenhorn led of the frame with his 21st double and would later score on a sac fly from Ernie De La Trinidad. Hits were scarce for them, as they had just five as a team through nine.

    Ryan Mason came on from the bullpen for the seventh and eighth frames, keeping his team in front by allowing just one hit and a walk while striking out three. Adam Bray and his 1.27 ERA with Fort Myers came out for the top of the ninth and Bradenton was able to tie the game with three singles and saddle him with his first blown save of the year. The newly signed Alex Phillips was summoned for the tenth and got all three hitters he faced, including a K, to keep the Marauders off the board.

    In the bottom of the inning, after an intentional walk to Caleb Hamilton and a passed ball to advance the runners to second and third, Blankenhorn brought in the walk-off run with a single to center field.

    The win brings the Miracle to within a half-game of the Charlotte Stone Crabs in the Florida State League South division with five games to play.

    Scheduled Day Off

    The Kernels wrapped up a Midwest League title in the second half on Monday and will finish off their regular season with a five-game series at home against the Burlington Bees starting Wednesday. They will kick off the MWL playoffs a week from Wednesday, against whomever comes out on top of a current half-game difference in the Western Division standings between Kane County, Beloit, and Wisconsin (Quad Cities and Peoria already qualified in the first half, so are ineligible).

    Pulaski 5, Elizabethton 8
    Box Score

    The E-Twins got all the run support they would need in the third inning when they batted around and plated six runs, but they also had pushed a run across in each of the first two innings to account for their eight runs on the scoreboard.

    Yunior Severino got them started with his eighth home run in the first, and they made it 2-0 on a bases-loaded passed ball in the second before the big outburst in the third. Gilberto Celestino (2-for-4, R, 2B, K), Jared Akins (2-for-3, 2 R, 2B, RBI, BB, K, SB), and Lean Marrero (2-for-4, R, 2B, 2 RBI, K) collected multiple hits in the contest to lead the way.

    Andrew Cabezas got the start and served as an opener, pitching just the first inning. He went one-two-three including strikeouts of the game’s first two hitters. Prelander Berroa went the next 2 1/3, allowing three runs on two hits and three walks while striking out two. Juan Gomez got the win with the next 2 2/3, where he allowed an unearned run on four hits and two walks. He struck out three. J.T. Perez was the next man up and allowed a run on three hits, along with picking up four K’s in two innings. Jacob Blank closed it out for his first professional save with a one-two-three ninth, striking out two.


    Twins Daily Pitcher of the Day – Andro Cutura, Fort Myers Miracle (6 IP, 0 R, 5 H, BB, 5 K)
    Twins Daily Hitter(s) of the Day – Travis Blankenhorn, Fort Myers Miracle (2-for-4, R, 2B, Game Winning RBI)


    #1 - Royce Lewis (Fort Myers) – 0-for-4, 2 K
    #2 - Alex Kirilloff (Fort Myers) – 0-for-4, K
    #3 - Brusdar Graterol (Fort Myers) – Did not pitch
    #4 - Nick Gordon (Rochester) – (2 games) 4-for-8, 2 R, RBI, K
    #5 - Stephen Gonsalves (Minnesota) – Did not pitch.
    #6 - Trevor Larnach (Cedar Rapids) – Scheduled Day Off
    #7 - Brent Rooker (Chattanooga) – 1-for-4
    #8 - Akil Baddoo (Cedar Rapids) – Scheduled Day Off
    #9 -Wander Javier – Out for the season.
    #10 - Zack Littell (Rochester) –.W, 6 IP, 4 ER, 8 H, BB, 5 K
    #11 - Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) – Scheduled Day Off
    #12 - LaMonte Wade (Rochester) – (2 games) 2-for-6, RBI, K
    #13 - Travis Blankenhorn (Fort Myers) – 2-for-4, R, 2B, RBI
    #14 - Lewis Thorpe (Rochester) – Did not pitch
    #15 - Ben Rortvedt (Fort Myers) – Did not play
    #16 - Yunior Severino (Elizabethton) – 1-for-5, HR (8), 2 K
    #17 - Lewin Diaz (Fort Myers) – Out for the season.
    #18 - Ryan Jeffers (Cedar Rapids) – Scheduled Day Off
    #19 - Jacob Pearson (Cedar Rapids) – Scheduled Day Off
    #20 - Luis Arraez (Chattanooga) – Did not play


    Buffalo @ Rochester (6:05PM CST) – RHP Chase De Jong (1-3, 3.81 ERA)
    Bradenton @ Fort Myers (6:00PM CST) – RHP Clark Beeker (4-7, 4.73 ERA)
    Burlington @ Cedar Rapids (6:35PM CST) – RHP Blayne Enlow (3-5, 3.24 ERA)
    Pulaski @ Elizabethton (6:00PM CST) – TBD

    Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Tuesday’s games!

    • Aug 29 2018 05:38 AM
    • by Steve Lein
  10. Twins Minor League Report (7/17): Barnes and Kirilloff Lead Miracle to Win


    Before we get to the games, there was some roster shuffling in the lower levels of the minors:

    • Catcher Robert Molina was activated from the seven-day disabled list with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, and then assigned to the Elizabethton Twins.
    • The GCL Twins activated pitcher Junior Navas from the disabled list and he closed out the game on Tuesday. The Twins also received infielder and 2018 draftee, Hunter Lee from Elizabethton.
    Louisville 12, Rochester 5
    Box Score

    The Bats swarmed Red Wings starter Adalberto Mejia from the get-go in this one, with the home team falling behind 7-2 after three innings. Mejia recovered to finish six innings, including retiring the last seven hitters he faced, but it was too little too late. Those seven runs came on eight hits in the first three innings, and Mejia would only allow a walk after that. He also struck out seven.

    Louisville turned it into a blowout against the bullpen duo of Luke Bard and Jake Reed, who combined to allow five more runs on four hits and two walks in the final three innings. Bard allowed a home run but also struck out four. Reed struck out one and finished the game.

    On offense Rochester got multi-hit nights from Nick Gordon (2-for-4, R, 2B, RBI, BB, SB) and Andy Wilkins (2-for-3, R, HR, RBI, BB). Wilkins’ home run led off the ninth inning and was his second in as many games since being promoted to the Red Wings. Kennys Vargas contributed an RBI double in the first inning to drive in Gordon, who had clubbed his 11th double earlier in the frame.

    Stephen Gonsalves will take the hill for the Red Wings in the series’ rubber match Wednesday night at Frontier Field.

    Scheduled Day Off

    After playing games for 19 consecutive days, the Lookouts got a much-needed day off. They hit the road to face the Mobile BayBears for five games beginning tomorrow night.

    St. Lucie 0, Fort Myers 5
    Box Score

    Fort Myers took a 1-0 lead after the first inning as the top prospect duo of Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff got them started. Lewis led off the game with his first double in a Miracle uniform. A batter later Kirilloff brought him home with his sixth Florida State League double.

    That was all starter Charlie Barnes would need, as he held the Mets scoreless for seven innings to pick up his fourth win. Barnes scattered five, walked none, and struck out two. He also had thrown just 89 pitches, with 57 going for strikes (64%) so maybe he even had some more in him if it was necessary.

    It wasn’t as the Fort Myers offense added to their lead with a single run in the fourth, and three more in the sixth. A sac fly from Joe Cronin made it 2-0 in the fourth, and Kirilloff led off the sixth with his second home run with the Miracle. In that same inning Ben Rortvedt drove in one with a sac fly, and a Brandon Lopez double would plate the third.

    Kirilloff and Lopez each collected two hits to pace the lineup. Travis Blankenhorn clubbed his 18th double and scored two runs. In addition to his double, Lewis also drew a walk in four trips to the plate.

    Colton Davis finished the final two innings for the home team and kept the shutout intact. He allowed one hit, walked two, and struck out two.

    Scheduled Day Off

    Cedar Rapids had Tuesday off as they finished a 4-2 homestand last night. They will travel to Midland, Michigan tomorrow to begin a six-game road trip against the Great Lakes Loons.

    Scheduled Day Off

    Elizabethton was the third of the organization’s affiliates to have the night off on Tuesday. Leading the Appalachian League West Division with a 19-9 record, they’ll face the bottom-dwelling Greeneville Reds to begin a six-game homestand on Wednesday night.

    GCL Twins 1, GCL Orioles 0
    Box Score

    The teams combined for just nine hits in this one, with none of them going for extra bases, and no earned runs allowed by the pitching staffs in a 1-0 shutout for the Twins.

    A catcher interference play in the seventh inning put a runner on for the Twins, and after some small ball that runner scored on a wild pitch for the only run of the game. Leading the offense was Erick Rivera out of the eighth spot in the lineup, who finished 1-for-2 with two walks.

    The pitching for the Twins was obviously excellent in this one. Right-hander Donny Breek made the start and went the first four innings. He allowed two hits, walked three, and struck out four. Regi Graci went the next 3 1/3 innings to pick up his second win. He gave up only a hit and a walk while striking out two. Osiris German faced two hitters to end the ninth and retired both, including one on a K, to pick up his first hold in the GCL. In his GCL debut after being activated, righty Junior Navas delivered a one-two-three ninth to pick up his first save. He struck out one.


    Twins Daily Pitcher of the Day – Charlie Barnes, Fort Myers Miracle (W, 7 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 0 BB, 2 K)
    Twins Daily Hitter(s) of the Day – Alex Kirilloff, Fort Myers Miracle (2-for-4, R, 2B (6), HR (2), 2 RBI)


    #1 - Royce Lewis (Ft. Myers) – 1-for-3, R, 2B (1), BB
    #2 - Alex Kirilloff (Ft. Myers) – 2-for-4, R, 2B (6), HR (2), 2 RBI
    #3 - Brusdar Graterol (Ft. Myers) – Did not pitch.
    #4 - Nick Gordon (Rochester) – 2-for-4, R, 2B (11), RBI, BB, SB
    #5 - Stephen Gonsalves (Rochester) – Did not pitch.
    #6 - Trevor Larnach (Elizabethton) - Could play by Wednesday (per Doogie)
    #7 - Brent Rooker (Chattanooga) – Scheduled off day.
    #8 - Akil Baddoo (Cedar Rapids) – Scheduled off day.
    #9 -Wander Javier – Out of for the season
    #10 - Zack Littell (Rochester) – Did not pitch.
    #11 - Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) – Did not pitch.
    #12 - LaMonte Wade (Rochester) – 0-for-4, 3 K
    #13 - Travis Blankenhorn (Ft. Myers) – 1-for-4, 2 R, 2B (18), K
    #14 - Lewis Thorpe (Chattanooga) – Scheduled off day.
    #15 - Ben Rortvedt (Ft. Myers) – 1-for-2, RBI, BB
    #16 - Yunior Severino (Elizabethton) – Scheduled off day.
    #17 - Lewin Diaz (Ft. Myers) – Did not play.
    #18 - Ryan Jeffers (Elizabethton) – Scheduled off day.
    #19 - Jacob Pearson (Cedar Rapids) – Scheduled off day.
    #20 - Luis Arraez (Chattanooga) – Scheduled off day.


    Louisville @ Rochester (6:05PM CST) – LHP Stephen Gonsalves (6-3, 3.66 ERA
    Chattanooga @ Mobile (6:35AM CST) – LHP Paco Rodriguez (3-0, 3.60 ERA)
    St. Lucie @ Fort Myers (6:00PM CST) – RHP Tyler Wells (7-4, 2.85 ERA)
    Cedar Rapids @ Great Lakes (6:05PM CST) – RHP Edwar Colina (3-3, 3.43 ERA)
    Greeneville @ Elizabethton (6:00PM CST) – TBD
    GCL Orioles @ GCL Twins (11:00AM CST) - TBD

    Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Tuesday’s games!

    • Jul 18 2018 04:21 AM
    • by Steve Lein
  11. 2018 Twins Midseason Top Prospect List: 11-15

    15. Ben Rortvedt – C
    Age: 20
    ETA: 2021
    2018 Stats (A-/A+): .274/.329/.387 (.716 OPS), 11 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 46 K, 16 BB
    2018 Ranking: 16 | 2017 Ranking: 19
    Seth: 21 | Tom: 10 | Cody: 15

    When the Twins took Ben Rortvedt 56th overall in 2016, he became their highest-selected catcher since No. 1 pick Joe Mauer in '01. Having kept a close eye on the Verona, WI, kid as he excelled in high school just hours away, Minnesota was clearly sold on his defensive chops. He had all the tools and a tremendous rep behind the plate. "The kid was born to catch," said Twins scouting director Deron Johnson after the draft.

    This in and of itself makes him an asset, but a quality bat is a differentiator for such player profiles. And while Rortvedt's receiving skills and powerful arm were quickly on display once he signed and reported to rookie ball, his offensive game lagged behind. In 113 plate appearances between the Gulf Coast and Appy leagues, the small-framed teenager batted .222 and slugged .253.

    His struggles carried over into the 2017 season, which saw Rortvedt slashing .139/.214/.174 in Cedar Rapids at the end of May. But he put up a solid .721 OPS the rest of the way, and then produced similarly there over the first two months this year before a promotion to Fort Myers. In the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, he's sporting a handsome .269/.338/.388 line with two homers (half of his 2017 total) in 20 games.

    Rortvedt's upward ascent in our rankings – from 19th pre-2017 to 16th pre-2018 to 15 now – has reflected his progression at the dish. The compact and strong-armed backstop has a naturally high floor thanks to his defensive value, and if his bat keeps improving, his ceiling will follow suit.

    14. Lewis Thorpe – LHP
    Age: 22
    ETA: 2019
    2018 Stats (AA): 82.2 IP, 4.03 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 11.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 4.33 K:BB
    2018 Ranking: 12 | 2017 Ranking: NR
    Seth: 13 | Tom: 14 | Cody: 16

    When he has been on the mound, Lewis Thorpe has dominated. That's been a consistent trend since he signed with the Twins as a 16-year-old out of Australia. Staying on that mound has been his issue. With 82 2/3 innings in the book this season, he's already one out away from his career high (83, last year).

    In 2017, the lefty was easing back into action after two full seasons lost to injury. But it speaks to his immense talent that, despite all the missed time, Thorpe still finds himself in Double-A at age 22. And he's wreaking havoc.

    Never mind the ho-hum ERA and WHIP – they are byproducts of an inflated .370 BABIP. What matters is this: Facing high-minors competition for the first time, with only 250 total pro innings under his belt, Thorpe has put up a phenomenal 104-to-24 K/BB ratio. He has posted a phenomenal 16% swinging strike rate (Jose Berrios, for comparison, had a 10% whiff rate in his first turn at Double-A – granted he was 20).

    The arsenal, a balanced four-pitch mix, is terrific. But it always has been. What Thorpe needs to do is stay healthy and stay on that mound. If he can do so all year while continuing to make batters miss, he'll absolutely be in our Top 10 come next spring.

    13. Travis Blankenhorn – 3B
    Age: 21
    ETA: 2020
    2018 Stats (A+): .241/.302/.406 (.708 OPS), 16 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 82 K, 19 BB
    2018 Ranking: 17 | 2017 Ranking: 9
    Seth: 12 | Tom: 9 | Cody: 21

    Sometimes power takes a while to develop in young hitters. There's no better testament to this than Brian Dozier, who hit 32 total home runs in college and the minor leagues before launching 164 (and counting) in the big leagues. It's possible that Travis Blankenhorn will be Dozier's successor somewhere down the line – he has played a fair amount of second base since joining the organization as a third-round pick in 2015 – but the 21-year-old profiles better as a third baseman.

    Coming out of high school, he was the prototype for a slugging corner infielder. Blankenhorn was already big when drafted at 6'1" and 195 lbs. He has since grown a little taller and a little burlier.

    But the power hasn't quite manifested. Through 308 pro games he has 34 home runs and a .429 slugging percentage, including eight and .406 this year at Fort Myers. His innate strength is plain enough to see – he participated in the Florida State League Home Run Derby a month ago, and won. It's just not flashing consistently enough in games, leading to mediocre production in the FSL.

    But that power? It's in there, and Blankenhorn is on track to set new career highs in both doubles and home runs. He's still awaiting his true breakthrough but the Pottsville, PA, native has a slugger's frame, keeps the strikeouts in check, and plays quality defense at multiple infield spots.

    12. LaMonte Wade – OF
    Age: 24
    ETA: 2018
    2018 Stats (AA/AAA): .286/.397/.448 (.845 OPS), 6 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 36 K, 45 BB
    2018 Ranking: 14 | 2017 Ranking: 15
    Seth: 9 | Tom: 15 | Cody: 14

    LaMonte Wade has never been a great hitter, in terms of being able to swing the bat and drive the ball with consistency. But he has always, ever since joining the Twins organization in 2015, been a daunting adversary for opposing pitchers, and one of the toughest outs in pro baseball.

    During his career at the University of Maryland, Wade walked more than he struck out. But his lack of standout speed or power – he hit seven home runs and stole 25 bases in three collegiate seasons – suppressed his stock and caused him to slip to the ninth round, where Minnesota selected him in 2015.

    The plate discipline that punched his ticket has translated to the pros, and then some. Thanks to his elite skill for laying off non-strikes and coaxing walks, Wade has a .403 OBP and 187-to-222 K/BB ratio in 346 minor-league games. He has never finished at any level with an OBP below .386.

    Wade impressed the Twins with his approach during spring training, opened the season in Chattanooga, and is now in Rochester doing his usual thing (.261/.404/.455 in 27 games). I'd be surprised if he doesn't get a look as a September call-up, if not before. He'll probably never hit for much power, and he should be relegated to the outfield corners, but Wade can play a valuable role in the majors thanks to a Mauer-esque understanding of the strike zone.

    11. Blayne Enlow – RHP
    Age: 19
    ETA: 2022
    2018 Stats (A): 50.2 IP, 3.73 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 1.61 K/BB
    2018 Ranking: 8 | 2017 Ranking: NR
    Seth: 10 | Tom: 13 | Cody: 13

    Coming in under-slot with two of their top three 2017 draft picks (Royce Lewis and Landon Leach) enabled the Twins to go nearly three times over-slot for No. 76 overall pick Blayne Enlow, who turned down a scholarship from Louisiana State to sign for $2 million.

    Enlow's curveball, vaunted as the best in the country among preps, was unleashed to devastating effect after he signed, leading to eye-popping rookie ball stats and a spot among Twins Daily's Top 10 this spring. Now, after a bit of a tumultuous first half in 2018, he finds himself just on the outside.

    Impressed with his phenomenal debut, the Twins aggressively pushed Enlow straight to Low-A this year, even though he turned 19 in March. Only three qualified starters in the Midwest League are under 20. Enlow is younger than any of them, but he's not in the "qualified" category, since he's been limited to 12 appearances (10 starts) and 50 2/3 innings by a pair of injuries – first to his back, then his ankle.

    No, his numbers with the Kernels haven't been great when healthy. But the Twins have been very cautious with his pitch counts (he hasn't thrown 90 pitches in a game, and has only gone over 75 twice in his past 10 outings). He's facing almost exclusively older and more experienced competition. That's not the kind of combo that lends itself to sparkly numbers.

    That Enlow is even holding his own under these circumstances is commendable. If he gets on a roll in the second half, he'll skyrocket in the ranks. The talent is absolutely there.


    2018 Twins Midseason Top Prospects: 36-40
    2018 Twins Midseason Top Prospects: 31-35
    2018 Twins Midseason Top Prospects: 26-30
    2018 Twins Midseason Top Prospects: 21-25
    2018 Twins Midseason Top Prospects: 16-20

    • Jul 12 2018 07:01 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  12. Twins Minor League Report (7/5): Ober Strikes Out 12 In Cedar Rapids

    Cedar Rapids released Tanner Kiest, Rickey Ramirez promoted to Cedar Rapids from Elizabethton, Matt Albanese assigned to Elizabethton

    Pawtucket 0 @ Rochester 0
    Box Score

    SUSPENDED - Rain

    Birmingham 3 @ Chattanooga 2
    Box Score

    The Lookouts kept Birmingham off the scoreboard in every inning except the fifth, but they gave up a crooked number and could not rally to overcome the three-run fifth. Starter Dietrich Enns cruised into the fifth inning but did not finish, pitching 4.2 innings. Enns was charged with all three runs (two earned), he gave up six hits, did not issue any walks, and struck out eight. Sam Clay came in to close out the fifth and pitched the sixth as well, 1 1/3 IP. Clay did not allow any hits or runs. He walked two and struck out two. Williams Ramirez gave up a hit over two innings, striking out three and walking one. Cody Stashak gave up a hit in an otherwise clean 1 IP.

    The Lookouts had chances on Thursday night but were just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, stranding eight. Brent Rooker was the only hitter to have multiple hits, and the only hitter to have an extra-base hit. Rooker was 2-for-4 with a double and a strikeout. Zander Wiel stole second the lone time he was on base, going 1-for-4 with a strike out.

    Dunedin 2 @ Fort Myers 1 – GAME 1
    Box Score

    In game one of a double-header the Miracle managed just three hits and a run, falling to Dunedin and starter Patrick Murphy who pitched a complete game (seven IP). Alex Kirilloff and Miguel Sano were both 0-for-3. Travis Blankenhorn provided the lone run support in the first game, going 1-for-3 with a solo home run in the fourth inning.

    Ervin Santana, still rehabbing, was tagged with the loss, giving up three hits and two runs over 4 innings. He struck out two and gave up a home run. He was replaced by Adam Bay who held Dunedin scoreless over 3 innings. Bray struck out four and gave up a pair of hits.

    Dunedin 1 @ Fort Myers 0 – GAME 2
    Box Score

    It was not much better for the Miracle in the nightcap as they again managed three hits against Dunedin, but this time failing to score any runs. Miguel Sano picked up two of the three hits going 2-for-3 with a strike out. Alex Kirilloff was again held hitless, going 0-for-3.

    Charlie Barnes pitched well enough to win, taking a scoreless game into the seventh inning, but without any run support at all he was tagged with a loss to fall to 3-5. Barnes pitched 6 1/3 innings, scattered six hits, giving up just one run in the top of the seventh. He walked three and struck out three. Ryan Mason pitched the last 2/3 of an inning, giving up a pair of hits but keeping Dunedin off of the board.

    Wisconsin 1 @ Cedar Rapids 8
    Box Score

    2,520 fans in Cedar Rapids were treated to an excellent start from Bailey Ober. Ober pitched 7.0 innings, gave up just three hits and one run while striking out TWELVE. Ober’s 12-strikeout game was the first for the Kernels in more than two years. Jared Finkel finished the game for Ober and the Kernels, pitching 2 innings of hitless baseball. Finkel walked one and struck out one.

    The Kernels scored eight runs on just seven hits and three walks thanks to some timely hitting with runners in scoring position. Jared Akins was 2-for-4 with a triple and three RBIs. Jordan Gore was 2-for-3 with a three-run home run. Royce Lewis was 1-for-3 with an RBI, a walk and a strikeout.

    Elizabethton Twins Talk
    Kingsport 7 @ Elizabethton 1
    Box Score

    The E-Town Twins were clobbered by Kingsport 7-1 and managed just four hits. No Twins hitter had more than one hit, and Trevor Casanova had the team's only extra-base hit, a double, as part of his 1-for-4 night.

    Starter Andrew Cabezas was charged with the loss, falling to 0-2 with 4.0 innings of three-run baseball. Cabezas gave up three hits and struck out four. Carlos Suniaga pitched 4.0 innings of relief giving up two runs (one earned) on three hits. He struck out four and walked one. Blair Lasko pitched 1 inning, giving up a pair of runs on three hits, a walk and a strike out.

    GCL Orioles 1 @ GCL Twins 2
    Box Score

    The GCL Twins walked off the GCL Orioles with some good old-fashioned small ball. After Alberoni Nunez walked to lead off the inning, Agustin Marte bunted him over to second. The Orioles then intentionally walked Estamy Urena to keep the force out in play, and then accidentally walked Gabe Snyder to load the bases. Austin Hale was the hero, singling home the winning run! Hale was 1-for-2 with an RBI and a strikeout. No Twins player had multiple hits and there were no extra base hits. Before Hale’s ninth inning single with the bases loaded, the Twins were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 runners.

    The Twins used four pitchers to win a tight game on Thursday with starter Kai-Wei Teng going 5.0 innings, giving up just two hits and striking out seven. Zach Featherstone pitched a scoreless six, but walked the bases loaded and only escaped thanks to a couple of strikeouts. Erik Cha pitched 2.0 innings, gave up just a single unearned run on no hits and no walks. J.T. Perez earned the win thanks to that ninth inning run, he pitched 1 inning, gave up one hit and a walk, striking one out.


    Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Bailey Ober, Cedar Rapids
    Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Brent Rooker, Chattanooga


    • Royce Lewis, Cedar Rapids – 1-3, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 RBI, 1 K
    • Alex Kirilloff, Fort Myers – 0-6, 2 K
    • Brent Rooker, Chattanooga – 2-4, 1 2B, 1 K
    • Akil Baddoo, Cedar Rapids – 1-4, 1 R
    • Lewin Diaz, Fort Myers – 1-6, 2 K
    • Ben Rortvedt, Fort Myers – 0-2, 1 K
    • Travis Blankenhorn, Fort Myers – 1-6, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI
    • Yunior Severino, Elizabethton – 1-4, 1 K

    Rochester (6:05pm) – Kohl Stewart (0-0, 7.50)
    Chattanooga (7:15pm) – Anthony Marzi (0-5, 7.27)
    Fort Myers (5:30pm) – TBD
    Cedar Rapids (6:30pm) – TBD
    Elizabethton (6:00pm) – Josh Winder (0-0, 0.00)

    Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss Thursday's games.

    • Jul 06 2018 07:59 AM
    • by Eric R Pleiss
  13. Twins Minor League Report (6/19): All-Star Festivities and De La Cruz the Destroyer

    To find out how Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, and the rest of the organization’s All-Stars and prospects fared on Tuesday night, keep reading and be sure to add to the discussion in the comments!


    There were a couple of transactions leading into the action on Tuesday:

    -Felix Jorge was sent on a rehab assignment in the GCL from Chattanooga and started the game for the GCL Twins.
    -Leonardo Reginatto was activated from the disabled list for the Red Wings.
    -Byron Buxton began his rehab assignment with Rochester.
    -Pitcher Josh Winder was assigned to the Elizabethton roster.

    Syracuse 3, Rochester 4
    Box Score

    The Red Wings used a big third inning and a strong bullpen performance on Tuesday to pull out a victory despite being outhit 10-to-6.

    In that third inning Jake Cave got the scoring started with a two-RBI double, and later in the inning RBI singles from Willians Astudillo and Cameron Rupp put them out front for good at 4-2. Nick Gordon and Kennys Vargas added doubles to the effort, and LaMonte Wade drew two walks to keep his Triple A on-base-percentage above .400 despite hitting just .219 thus far after his promotion. In 11 games he now has 10 walks compared to just four strikeouts.

    Left-hander Dietrich Enns made the start and finished five innings to pick up his fifth win. He allowed three runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out two.

    The bullpen went to work from there, as D.J. Baxendale, Luke Bard, and John Curtiss combined for four innings of scoreless ball to close the game. Baxendale went two innings, allowing two hits and striking out four. Bard allowed two hits in the eighth but no runs, striking out one. Curtiss slammed the door with a one-two-three ninth, striking out two. Baxendale and Bard each picked up holds, while Curtiss notched his fifth save.

    Byron Buxton batted leadoff and went 0-4 with two strikeouts in his first rehab game as the DH.

    Southern League All-Star Game: South 9, North 5
    Box Score

    With selections LaMonte Wade promoted to Rochester and Zander Wiel and Randy LeBlanc on the disabled list, the Lookouts were represented on the North squad by pitchers Omar Bencomo, Ryne Harper, Williams Ramirez, and Todd Van Steensel in the Southern League All-Star Game Tuesday Night in Birmingham, Alabama.

    It was all them for the first six innings, as the North jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first and their pitchers held the South hitless. Bencomo got the fourth and delivered a one-two-three frame, striking out one. Harper got the sixth and did the same, setting all three hitters down in order.

    Unfortunately, it was Ramirez who lost the no-hitter in the seventh when he gave up a leadoff single, and that was followed by a home run to tie the game at two. He got the next two hitters out before being lifted.

    The teams traded blows in the eighth, each putting three runs on the board to head to the ninth tied at five. The North handed the ball to Van Steensel and his excellent 1.75 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in the first half. He was promptly greeted by a solo home run to put the South out front. Like Ramirez, he got the next two outs before he was replaced.

    Fort Myers 8, Palm Beach 7
    Box Score

    Fort Myers fell behind 5-0 after the top of half of the third inning as starting pitcher Tyler Watson was knocked around by the Tarpons lineup. In 3 1/3 total innings, Watson surrendered seven runs on eleven hits. He struck out two.

    Ryan Mason was able to settle it down, as he would finish the next 3 2/3 innings. He allowed no runs on five hits while striking out three. He was able to pick up the win as the Miracle offense woke up in the bottom of the third and scratched a couple more across while he was on the mound.

    The lineup stormed back with six runs in that third inning to take the lead 6-5. Travis Blankenhorn got the scoring started with a 2-RBI double and later score on a wild pitch. After a series of walks, Caleb Hamilton delivered a bases-clearing triple to put Fort Myers out front.

    Watson gave that lead back in the top of the fourth, but an RBI single from Jaylin Davis in the bottom half knotted it back up. With the game still tied in the sixth, Travis Blankenhorn led off with a single and then stole second base, his fifth of the year, to put himself in scoring position. Lewin Diaz drove him in with a one-out single and that was enough for the Miracle.

    Logan Lombana struck out two in a scoreless eighth, working around a leadoff single. Tom Hackimer picked up his second save of the season with a scoreless ninth. He hit one batter and struck out one.

    Midwest League All-Star Game: West 2, East 3 (10 innings)
    Box Score

    Like their double-A big brothers, the Midwest League also played their All-Star game, this one in Lansing, Michigan on Tuesday night.

    The Kernels were well represented, with top prospects Royce Lewis starting at shortstop and batting leadoff and Alex Kirilloff batting third and starting in right field.

    Lewis led off the game with a single and promptly stole second base but ended up stranded. In his second at-bat he would fly out to right field and then was replaced heading into the bottom of the fifth.

    Kirilloff played the whole game, getting four at-bats, and actually ended up pushing the exhibition to extra innings with an RBI single in the top of the eighth to tie the game at two.

    Cedar Rapids pitcher Jared Finkel was handed the fourth inning and pitched a scoreless frame. He allowed two singles and struck out one. Brusdar Graterol was on the roster, but according to Jeff Johnson of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, did not make the trip so he could rest his arm:

    Earlier in the day, Kirilloff participated in the Home Run Derby, but his 12 home runs fell one shy of making it into the final cut (notice the fence-spanning sign for him 😊).

    Burlington 1, Elizabethton 6
    Box Score

    In their Appalachian League season opener, and in defense of their 2017 league championship, the Elizabethton Twins took down the Burlington Royals in dominant fashion.

    The offense was led by Arial Montesino, Ryan Jeffers, Andrew Cosgrove, and Lean Marrero who each had two hits. The biggest of those was a two-run home run from Cosgrove in the eighth inning that made it the final of 6-1. Montesino, Colton Burns, and Marrero each added doubles to the effort, while Burns scored three runs.

    Pedro Garcia got the start for the Twins, and his first win of 2018 by pitching the first five innings. He allowed one run on two hits and five walks, while striking out seven. Moises Gomez went the next three innings, allowing only one hit and striking out five. Ricky Ramirez got the top of the ninth and had a one-two-three inning, punctuating the win with a K to end the game.

    GCL Twins 15, GCL Orioles 2
    Box Score

    While you’d think there’d be plenty to recap in a game where the offense scored 15 runs, this one actually comes down to just one player. That’s because I doubt you’ll see again this season another performance like the one designated hitter Yeremi De La Cruz (also a catcher) put on this afternoon.

    In the first inning, he hit a double to drive in two runs and give the Twins an early 2-0 lead. Another two-run double in the third made it 4-2. In the fourth, it was an RBI single that pushed their lead to 8-2. His biggest hit of the night came in the fifth, and it was a grand slam to completely demoralize the Orioles. He added another single to his line in the seventh, and the Orioles would finally get him out on a liner to third base in the eighth.

    If you were keeping track, that meant the product out of the Dominican Republic finished his first career game stateside with five hits in six at-bats, including two doubles, the grand slam, and NINE runs batted in. Unbelievable!

    The Twins got multiple hits from three other hitters, including Yeltsin Encarnacion (3-for-4, 3 R, RBI, BB), Victor Tademo (3-for-5, 3 R, RBI, BB, K), and Agustin Marte (2-for-5, 2 R, K).

    In other news, Felix Jorge pitched the first inning in this one, kicking off a minor league rehab tour after starting the season on the disabled list. He allowed a single and an unearned run after a fielding error. Tyler Benninghoff pitched the next five innings, picking up the win. He gave up one run on two hits and four walks, while striking out six. Petru Balan went the next 1 2/3 innings, allowing a hit and a walk with three K’s. Frandy Torres finished the game with 1 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out two.


    Twins Daily Pitcher of the Day – Moises Gomez, Elizabethton Twins (3 IP, H, 4 K)
    Twins Daily Hitter of the Day – Yeremi De La Cruz, GCL Twins (5-for-6, 2 R, 2 2B, GS (1), 9 RBI)


    1. Royce Lewis (Cedar Rapids) – (MWL All-Star Game) 1-for-2, SB
    2. Fernando Romero (Minnesota) – Did not pitch.
    3. Nick Gordon (Rochester) – 1-for-4, R, 2B, K
    4. Stephen Gonsalves (Rochester) – Did not pitch.
    5. Alex Kirilloff (Cedar Rapids) – (MWL All-Star Game) 1-for-4, RBI, CS
    6. Wander Javier (Cedar Rapids) – Out for season with injury.
    7. Brent Rooker (Chattanooga) – SL All-Star Break
    8. Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) – MWL All-Star Break
    9. Brusdar Graterol (Cedar Rapids) – MWL All-Star Break (did not pitch)
    10. Akil Baddoo (Cedar Rapids) – MWL All-Star Break
    11. Zack Littell (Rochester) – Did not pitch.
    12. Lewis Thorpe (Chattanooga) – SL All-Star Break
    13. Lewin Diaz (Fort Myers) – 1-for-3, R, RBI, 2 BB
    14. LaMonte Wade (Rochester) – 0-for-2, R, 2 BB
    15. Mitch Garver (Minnesota) – 0-for-3, K
    16. Ben Rortvedt (Fort Myers) – 1-for-3, R, BB
    17. Travis Blankenhorn (Fort Myers) – 3-for-5, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, K, SB
    18. Yunior Severino (Elizabethton Twins) – Did not play.
    19. Tyler Jay (Chattanooga) – Did not pitch.
    20. Felix Jorge (Rochester) – (Playing for GCL Twins) 1 IP, H, R (unearned)


    Syracuse @ Rochester (11:35AM CST) – LHP Adalberto Mejia (2-2, 3.47 ERA)
    Chattanooga – Southern League All-Star Break
    Tampa @ Fort Myers (11:00AM CST) – RHP Clark Beeker (2-4, 3.04 ERA)
    Cedar Rapids – Midwest League All-Star Break
    Burlington @ Elizabethton (6:00PM CST) – TBD
    GCL Orioles @ GCL Twins (11:00AM CST) - TBD

    Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Tuesday’s games!

    • Jun 20 2018 04:42 AM
    • by Steve Lein
  14. Twins Minor League Report (6/15): Blankenhorn Blasts Way To Derby Title

    Keep reading to find out more on the night in the Twins minor league system on Friday. As always, please feel free to discuss and ask questions.


    • Jake Cave officially reported to Rochester after being sent down from Minnesota a day earlier. Joe Mauer was officially activated by the Twins, and they also recalled utility man Taylor Motter.
    • Later in the day, the Red Wings announced that Trevor May was placed on their disabled list with some shoulder inflammation.
    Rochester 3, Buffalo 4
    Box Score

    The Red Wings scored two runs in the top of the ninth, but they needed a third run in order to tie as they fell to 30-34 on their season.

    Zack Littell started. The right-hander gave up three runs on six hits over the first 5 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out four. DJ Baxendale got the next four outs and was charged with only an unearned run. Luke Bard struck out one in the final inning.

    Zack Granite led off and led the Red Wings offense. He went 2-for-3 with a walk.

    Chattanooga 1, Birmingham 4
    Box Score

    Kohl Stewart put together a good start, but the Lookout offense wasn’t able to provide any run support. Stewart gave up only an unearned run on four hits in five innings. He walked three and struck out five. Williams Ramirez came on and gave up three runs on three hits and a walk in an inning and a third. Sam Clay came on and got the final four outs, three of them on strikeouts.

    Jimmy Kerrigan went 2-for-4. Tanner English was 2-for-3. Edgar Corcino had a single and a walk.

    The Lookouts are now 35-33.

    Ft. Myers
    Box Score

    A large chunk of the Miracle roster was able to enjoy Day 1 of their All-Star break. However seven players were named to the Florida State League South All-Star roster.

    On Friday night, infielder Travis Blankenhorn and Jayline Davis participated in the Home Run Derby. In the first round, Davis was eliminated after hitting three homers. Blankenhorn knocked eight home runs.He increased that number to 11 in the second round. He was even better in the finals where he hit 12 home runs to win the championship.

    In addition to Blankenhorn, the Miracle will be represented by RHP Tyler Wells, LHP Andrew Vasquez, 1B Lewin Diaz, OF Jaylin Davis and catcher Taylor Grzelakowski. OF Jimmy Kerrigan was also named to the team, but he was recently promoted to Double-A Chattanooga.

    Cedar Rapids 12, Peoria 4
    Box Score

    The Kernels’ offense showed up in a big way on Friday night. They scored 12 runs on 14 hits. Things got started quickly when Royce Lewis homerd in the first inning. It marked the fourth straight game that he has had a first-inning, extra-base hit. Lewis led the way, going 3-for-5 with his sixth homer and four RBI.

    The Kernels scored six runs in the fourth innings. Trey Cabbage drove in two with a double. Lewis drove in two with a single, and then Jose Miranda hit a two-run homer. Cabbage went 2-for-3 with a walk, his tenth double and three RBI. Miranda was 2-for-4 and the home run was his sixth of the year. Robby Rinn went 2-for-5 including his third Kernels homer. Andrew Bechtold had two hits including his eighth double.

    Bryan Sammons was the beneficiary of the offensive support. The lefty put together a quality start. He gave up three runs on eight hits and two walks over six innings. He struck out two to record his third win of the season. Melvi Acosta picked up his first save as he worked the final three innings. He gave up one run on two hits and two walks and struck one out.

    The Kernels are now 32-35. They have two more games in Cedar Rapids before the Midwest League All-Star break. The Kernels will be represented by Jared Finkel, Brusdar Graterol, Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff in Lansing, Michigan. Kirilloff, who leads the league in home runs so far this season, will participate in the home run derby. Listen to the four of them discuss the All Star experience and what they’re looking forward to.

    Twins Daily Hitter of the Day: Royce Lewis, Cedar Rapids Kernels (3-5, HR(6), 4 RBI)
    Twins Daily Pitcher of the Day: Kohl Stewart, Chattanooga Lookouts (5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0ER, 3 BB, 5 K)

    Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed:

    #1 - Royce Lewis (Cedar Rapids) - 3-5, HR(6), 4 RBI, 2 R, K
    #2 - Fernando Romero (Minnesota) - Did not pitch
    #3 - Nick Gordon (Rochester) - 0-3, BB
    #4 - Stephen Gonsalves (Rochester) - Did Not Pitch
    #5 - Alex Kirilloff (Cedar Rapids) - 1-4, BB, K
    #6 - Wander Javier - out of for the season
    #7 - Brent Rooker (Chattanooga) - Did not play
    #8 - Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) - Disabled List
    #9 - Brusdar Graterol (Cedar Rapids) - Did Not Pitch
    #10 - Akil Baddoo (Cedar Rapids) - 0-4, BB, RBI
    #11 - Zack Littell (Rochester) - 5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
    #12 - Lewis Thorpe (Chattanooga) - Did not pitch
    #13 - Lewin Diaz (Ft. Myers) - All Star break
    #14 - LaMonte Wade (Rochester) - 1-4, 2B(1), RBI, 2 K
    #16 - Ben Rortvedt (Ft. Myers) - All Star Break
    #17 - Travis Blankenhorn (Ft. Myers) - Florida State League Home Run Derby Champion
    #18 - Yunior Severino (Extended Spring Training) -
    #19 - Tyler Jay (Chattanooga) - Did Not Pitch
    #20 - Felix Jorge (Chattanooga) - Disabled List, still no official timetable for return.

    Rochester @ Buffalo (5:05 CST) - LHP Stephen Gonsalves (4-3, 5.89 ERA)
    Chattanooga @ Montgomery (6:30 CST) - RHP Sean Poppen (0-3, 9.00 ERA)
    Ft. Myers - Florida State League All Star Game (5:30 CST)
    Peoria @ Cedar Rapids (6:35 CST) - RHP Edwar Colina (2-2, 4.26 ERA)

    Please feel free to ask any questions about Friday’s games, or ask any questions you may have.

    • Jun 16 2018 05:12 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  15. Twins Minor League Report (5/11): Rooker Walks Off In Grand Style

    Keep reading to find out more on the night in the Twins minor league system on Friday. As always, please feel free to discuss and ask questions.


    • The Red Wings announced that OF Nick Buss was reinstated from the disabled list.
    • To make room, LH RP Mason Melotakis was released.
    • On Saturday, Trevor May will be added to the Miracle roster on a rehab assignment.
    Game 1 - Rochester 5, Scranton/Wilkes Barre 4 (8 innings)
    Box Score

    Zack Littell was back on the mound for his second AAA start. He threw six scoreless innings in his first Red Wings game, and be started this game with three more zeroes. He gave up a solo home run in the fourth, but that was it. The right-hander gave up just one run on two hits and two walks over six innings. He struck out eight. Nick Anderson came on for the seventh inning with a two-run lead. He gave up a two-run homer to Erik Kratz that tied the game and sent it to extra innings.

    In the eighth inning, Wynston Sawyer was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to give the Red Wings the lead. James Ramsey added an RBI single which was important. Anderson gave up an unearned run (the runner who started the inning on second base) in the eighth, but he recorded the win.

    Zack Granite returned to the Red Wings lineup. He went 1-for-3 with a walk and stole a bag. Jake Cave was 1-for-3 with a walk and a two-run single that gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead. Wynston Sawyer went 2-for-3. James Ramsey went 2-for-4.

    Game 2 - Rochester 0, Scranton/Wilkes Barre 7
    Box Score

    It wasn’t a good second game for the Red Wings. Stephen Gonsalves struggled with his control and command. The lefty gave up four hit, walked three and hit a batter. He gave up six runs, the big blast being a grand slam by Brandon Drury. He left after recording just five outs. Luke Bard gave up three hits over 2 1/3 scoreless innings. He struck out one. Gabriel Moya gave up one run over the final two innings. He struck out four.

    The Red Wings managed just four hits in Game 2. Willians Astudillo had two of them. Nick Buss and Jake Cave each had one hit.

    The loss puts the Red Wings at 15-15 on the season.

    Chattanooga 6, Jackson 2
    Box Score

    The game was tied at two, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Brent Rooker stepped to the plate and ended the game in walk-off, grand slam fashion. He noted after the game that it was the first time he’s ever hit a walk-off grand slam, though he has had walk-off home runs. His manager, Tommy Watkins, noted following the game, “It was a bomb!”

    Lefty Anthony Marzi was good in his first Double-A start, and he was good again in his second. He gave up just two runs on five hits over 7 1/3 innings. He struck out four without a walk. Ryan Eades came on to get the final five outs. He gave up two hits, walked none and struck out three.

    The Lookouts had seven hits, but no hitter had more than one hit. Rooker’s walk-off grand slam was obviously the biggest hit of the game. Edgar Corcino added his seventh double. Nick Gordon was 1-for-3 and was hit by a pitch.

    The win pushes the Lookouts season record to 22-13.

    Ft. Myers 3, Dunedin 4
    Box Score

    Travis Blankenhorn got things going in the right direction, but it wasn’t enough on this night. Blankenhorn went 2-for-4 with his sixth home run in the top of the first. Jimmy Kerrigan went 2-for-3, was hit by a pitch and knocked his tenth double.

    Brady Anderson made the start. He gave up four runs on seven hits over five innings. He struck out five batters without issuing a walk. Hector Lujan threw two scoreless innings. He gave up a hit, walked two and struck out one. Tom Hackimer gave up a hit, walked one and struck one out in his scoreless inning.

    The Miracle fall to 16-19 on the season.

    Cedar Rapids 7, Bowling Green 5
    Box Score

    The game was tied heading into the ninth. The Kernels got RBI singles from Ben Rortvedt and Jordan Gore to take the 7-5 lead which they were able to hang on to for the final three outs.

    Blayne Enlow made his fourth Kernels start. He gave up five runs (three earned) on five hits. He walked two and struck out three in 3 1/3 innings. Jovani Moran struck out four over 2 1/3 innings. He gave up just one hit and walked one. Carlos Suniaga gave up one hit and one walk over the final 3 1/3 innings. He struck out two to get the win.

    Shane Carrier led the offense. The powerful outfielder went 3-for-4 with a walk and his second and third doubles. Rortvedt was 2-for-4 with a walk. Jean Carlos Arias went 2-for-5 with his second home run. Akil Baddoo went 2-for-5 with a walk and his second double. Royce Lewis added this third double, and Alex Kirilloff hit his second triple to extend his hitting streak to 12 games.

    The win moves the Kernels back above .500 at 15-14.

    Twins Daily Hitter of the Day: Shane Carrier, Cedar Rapids Kernels (3-4, BB, 2-2B(3))
    Twins Daily Pitcher of the Day: Zack Littell, Rochester Red Wings (6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K)

    Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed:

    #1 - Royce Lewis (Cedar Rapids) - 1-5, 2B(3), R
    #3 - Nick Gordon (Chattanooga) - 1-3, HBP
    #4 - Stephen Gonsalves (Rochester) - 1.2 IP, 4 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 2 K
    #5 - Alex Kirilloff (Cedar Rapids) - 1-5, 3B(2), RBI, 2 K
    #7 - Brent Rooker (Chattanooga) - 1-5, HR(2), 4 RBI (walkoff grand slam)
    #8 - Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) - 3.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (55 pitches, 30 strikes)
    #10 - Akil Baddoo (Cedar Rapids) - 2-5, BB, 2B(2), 2 R, 2 K
    #11 - Zack Littell (Rochester) - 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K (88 pitches, 54 strikes)
    #13 - Lewin Diaz (Ft. Myers) - 1-4, 3 K
    #14 - LaMonte Wade (Chattanooga) - 0-4, BB, R
    #16 - Ben Rortvedt (Cedar Rapids) - 2-4, BB, RBI, K
    #17 - Travis Blankenhorn (Ft. Myers) - 2-4, HR(6), 2 RBI, R

    Rochester @ Scranton/Wilkes Barre (3:05 CST) - RHP Myles Jaye (1-2 5.92 ERA)
    Tennessee @ Chattanooga (6:15 CST) - TBD
    Ft. Myers @ Dunedin (5:30) - RHP Trevor May (1st rehab appearance)
    Cedar Rapids @ Bowling Green (6:30 CST) - LHP Bryan Sammons (0-3, 3.00 ERA)

    Please feel free to ask any questions about Friday’s full schedule of games, or ask any questions you may have.

    • May 12 2018 07:28 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  16. Twins Minor League Hitter Of The Month - April 2018

    Let’s take a look at the Top 5 hitters for the month of April, but first here are some players deserving of honorable mention.


    • Joe Cronin - Ft. Myers Miracle - 16-43, .372/.451/.558 (1.009) with five doubles, one homer and seven RBI
    • Mark Contreras - Ft. Myers Miracle - 15-43, .349/.429/.488 (917) with four doubles, one triple and seven RBI.
    • Ben Rodriguez - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 14-45, .311/.367/.511 (.878) with six doubles, one home run and three RBI.
    • Jaylin Davis - Ft. Myers Miracle - 15-53, .283/.406/.453 (.859) with six doubles, one home run and three RBI.

    Number 5 – OF LaMonte Wade - .312/.407/.418 (.825). 23-74 with one triple, two home runs and seven RBI.

    LaMonte Wade was the Twins ninth-round draft pick in 2015 out of the University of Maryland. He had a strong season at Double-A Chattanooga in 2017. He had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League until a collision in the outfield led to a concussion. He earned a non-roster invitation to big league spring training where he clearly impressed the entire coaching staff. So, it was surprising that he returned to AA Chattanooga to start this season. To this point in the year, LaMonte Wade has been LaMonte Wade. He’s hit for average. He continues to get on base. He’s got more walks than strikeouts. He hasn’t hit doubles, but he has a couple of long home runs. He’s been hitting leadoff for the Lookouts, but he should be in Rochester soon.

    Number 4 - Chattanooga Lookouts – SS Nick Gordon - .345/.363/.536 (.898), 29-94 with four doubles, three triples, two homers and 12 RBI.

    As surprising as it was that LaMonte Wade returned to Chattanooga, it was just as surprising that Nick Gordon returned to the Lookouts. The Twins top pick from 2014, Gordon had a terrific first half in AA last year. He struggled in the second half, and he struggled against left-handed pitching. He also spent a lot of big league spring training at second base. Gordon is again off to a fast start, hitting for average but also hitting for good power. Defensively, he has started in 20 of 24 games at shortstop. Like Wade, Gordon should be in Rochester soon.

    Number 3 – Ft. Myers Miracle - Travis Blankenhorn - .305/.345/.537 (.881), 25-82 with five doubles, one triple, four home runs and 13 RBI.

    Blankenhorn was the Twins third-round pick in 2015. Blankenhorn spent the 2017 season in Cedar Rapids and posted a .784 OPS. He filled the stat line well, hitting 22 doubles, 11 triples and 13 home runs. He also stole 13 bases, including home twice. He moved up to Ft. Myers this year and had a strong first month. He has hit for average and provided a lot of power. He leads the Twins minor leagues in home runs. He’s still moving back and forth between third base and second base, though he’s played twice as many games at third so far.

    Number 2 - Ft. Myers Miracle – OF Jimmy Kerrigan .326/.388/.547 (.934), 28-86 with eight doubles, one triple, three homers and 13 RBI.

    The 24-year-old Kerrigan played his college ball at Virginia Commonwealth. He went undrafted and started playing the 2017 season for the River City Rascals in the independent Frontier League. After a fast start, he signed with the Twins and went to Cedar Rapids. He began 2018 with the Ft. Myers Miracle and has been terrific. In fact, as the calendar turned to May, he was promoted to Rochester (though his time there may be short). Kerrigan led the Miracle. He hit for average, got on base and provided power. He also plays a good outfield.

    And the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month is:

    Chattanooga Lookouts – OF Zander Wiel - .316/.402/.513 (.915), 24-76 with nine doubles, two homers and 14 RBI.

    Zander Wiel was the Twins 12th-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt University. Upon signing, he went to Elizabethton where he was hit by a pitch and missed about a month. In 2016, he moved up to Cedar Rapids where he hit 19 home runs and led the Midwest League with 86 RBI. He hit another 13 homers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. This year, he will likely spend most of the season in Chattanooga, less than two hours from where he grew up in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He had a big month of April. He hit for average, got on base and he had some big extra-base hits. It seemed as if each of his nine doubles drove in key runs for the Lookouts. He has done so while continuing to learn the outfield. He’s split time between left field and first base with Brent Rooker and done a nice job at both spots.

    While you could argue for several players to win the award, we would like to congratulate Zander Wiel, Twins Daily’s choice for Minor League Hitter of the Month for April 2018. Feel free to share your thoughts and ask questions.

    • May 04 2018 07:57 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  17. Twins Minor League Report (4/29): Diaz Delivers Walk-Off Home Run

    C Brian Olson was reinstated from the disabled list for Chattanooga
    OF Jaylin Davis reinstated from the disabled list for Fort Myers
    RHP Max Cordy transferred from Fort Myers to Elizabethton
    RHP Moises Gomez promoted to the Kernels from Extended Spring Training
    RHP Melvi Acosta assigned to extended spring training from the Kernels

    Rochester --, Syracuse --
    Box Score
    Rain and cold weather got in the way of this contest between the Red Wings and the Chiefs. The plan is to play a doubleheader on Monday, June 25 with the first game scheduled to start at 3:05 CST. Rochester has been postponed five times this season. The Reds Wings head to Pawtucket for a three-game set starting on Monday.

    Chattanooga 2, Tennessee 3 (Game 1- 7 Innings)
    Box Score
    A pair of Smokies home runs got in the way of the Lookouts chance to move further above the .500 mark. Zack Littell fell to 0-3 after allowing three runs on six hits including the aforementioned long balls. He struck out three and walked two in 4 2/3 innings. Tyler Jay finished off the game with 2 1/3 scoreless frames. He struck out two and walked one. He has pitched multiple innings in two of his three appearances so far this season.

    Chris Paul and Brent Rooker both went 2-for-3. Paul’s leadoff single in the second allowed him to come around and score the game’s first run. In the third inning, Paul plated a run with his sixth double. Overall, the team went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and left five men on base.

    Chattanooga 2, Tennessee 3 (Game 2- 7 Innings)
    Box Score
    That score isn’t a misprint. As Yogi Berra famously said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” However, Chattanooga’s starter didn’t factor into the decision in this contest. Omar Bencomo, in his first start of the season, tossed four scoreless frames with three strikeouts and no walks. His season ERA dropped to 1.56 to go along with a 1.04 WHIP. Sam Clay had a rough fifth inning. Two doubles, a walk, a single, and a wild pitch led to three runs being scored. Zack Jones was terrific to end the game with five strikeouts over two innings.

    Hits were few and far between for the Lookouts. Only the top three batters in the lineup recorded hits. For the second straight game, Brent Rooker went 2-for-3 while adding his fourth double and an RBI. It was Rooker’s fifth multi-hit effort during the 2018 campaign. Nick Gordon went 1-for-2 and LaMonte Wade finished 1-for-3 with a run scored. Zander Wiel had an outfield assist in the game as he threw out a runner at home from left field.

    Ft. Myers 5, Daytona 4 (11 Innings)
    Box Score
    Things weren’t looking good in extra-innings for the Miracle. In the top of the 10th frame, Daytona had taken a one-run lead. Due to new rules, Luis Arraez started the bottom of the inning at second base. After a sacrifice bunt, he came home on a Travis Blankenhorn single to tie the game. Trailing again by one in the 11t- inning, Lewin Diaz stepped up to the plate and drove an 0-1 fastball over the right field wall for the walk-off home run.

    Earlier in the contest, the Miracle had scored first in the game for the first time in the series. Taylor Grzelakowski led off the second with a double. Caleb Hamilton reached base on a throwing error that allowed Grzelakowski to come around and score. Nelson Molina drove in Hamilton with a one-out single. Fort Myers had an early 2-0 lead.

    Clark Beeker pitched into the fifth inning without allowing an earned run. He struck out four and walked two in 4 1/3 innings. Beeker has pitched 9 2/3 straight innings of scoreless baseball. Andrew Vasquez was asked to get five outs and he collected strikeouts in four of those five at-bats. Sean Poppen tossed four innings and collected seven strikeouts. Although, he walked a pair and scattered two hits, which led to three runs (two earned) being scored. Logan Lombana gets credit for his second win thank to the Diaz walk-off.

    Cedar Rapids 4, Quad Cities 2
    Box Score
    With Bryan Sammons on the mound, the Kernels found themselves in an early hole but it wasn’t all his fault. In the bottom of the first with one out, Sammons walked a batter before a wild pitch moved the runner into scoring position. Andrew Bechtold and Ben Rodriguez commited fielding errors on back-to-back plays to keep the inning alive. Two runs would score but Cedar Rapids buckled down from there.

    In the fourth frame, Cedar Rapids got a run back. Two walks and a wild pitch loaded the bases for Jordan Gore. He grounded out but the lead was cut in half. Gore has reached safely in all 11 games this year. Trey Cabbage tied the game in the top of the sixth with his first home run of the year. In the seventh inning, the Kernels scored two runs without recording a hit. The team collected five walks and pushed across the final two runs of the game. Ben Rodriguez finished the game hitless but reached base three times.

    Derek Molina and Moises Gomez combined for five shutout innings to end the game. Molina earned his first win by striking out two and walking two over three innings. Gomez earned his first save as he struck out two in the last two innings.

    Twins Daily Hitter of the Day: Travis Blankenhorn, Fort Myers (3-for-5, RBI, K)
    Twins Daily Pitcher of the Day: Derek Molina, Cedar Rapids (3 IP, 0 ER, 2 K, 1st MWL Win)

    Here is a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed:
    #3 – Nick Gordon (Chattanooga) – 1-5
    #5 – Alex Kirilloff (Cedar Rapids) – 1-5, 2 K
    #7 – Brent Rooker (Chattanooga) – 4-6, 2B, RBI, R
    #10 – Akil Baddoo (Cedar Rapids) – 0-3, 2 BB, K
    #11 – Zack Littell (Chattanooga) – 4.2 IP, 3 ER, 3 K, 2 BB
    #13 – Lewin Diaz (Fort Myers) – 1-1, HR, 2 RBI, R
    #14 – LaMonte Wade (Chattanooga) – 2-7, R, K
    #16 – Ben Rortvedt (Cedar Rapids) – 0-2, 2 BB, R
    #17 - Travis Blankenhorn (Ft. Myers) - 3-5, RBI, K
    #19 – Tyler Jay (Cedar Rapids) – 2.1 IP, 0 ER, 2 K, BB

    Rochester @ Pawtucket (5:15 CST) - LHP Dietrich Enns (0-3, 5.79 ERA)
    Chattanooga vs. Tennessee (10:15 AM CST) – RHP Randy LeBlanc (3-1, 1.99 ERA)

    Please feel free to ask any questions about Sunday’s games, or ask any questions you may have.

    • Apr 29 2018 08:46 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  18. Twins Minor League Report (4/9): KKKKKKKKKohl Stewart's 2018 Debut

    Well, on the fifth day, all four Twins affiliates and the big league club played their games. The Red Wings, after having their first three games weathered out, finally played their opener. I’m sure they’re looking forward to a southern road trip starting on Thursday. The Lookouts finished out a five-game series against Birmingham. The Miracle took on Florida, and a hitter stayed hot. The Kernels made their first road trip and found a way to win a close ball game. After reading tonight’s report, be sure to add your comments and questions in the forum.

    Rochester 1, Syracuse 2
    Box Score

    Before the games began, the Red Wings announced that their three weathered-out games against Buffalo will be made up as parts of doubleheaders on May 25, May 27 and August 28.

    Aaron Slegers woke up Friday, Saturday and Sunday thinking he might be making his first start of the season. It wasn’t until Monday that it actually happened. However, Slegers proved ready for the Opening Day challenge. The right-hander went the first six innings. He gave up just one run on five hits and a walk. He struck out just one. 49 of his 66 pitches were strikes.

    Veteran Edwin Jackson got the start for Syracuse. In 3+ innings, the Red Wings worked him for six walks, but they managed just one run.

    Tyler Duffey came on in relief of Slegers. He was perfect in the seventh and eighth innings. He got the first out of the ninth inning, but a three-base error and a sacrifice fly meant that the Red Wings were down 2-1 going into the bottom of the ninth. They got two runners on base but were unable to push a run across the plate.

    Kennys Vargas went 1-for-2 with three walks in the game. Gregorio Petit went 2-for-4 in the game. Petit also played some impressive defense at shortstop.

    Chattanooga 5, Birmingham 2
    Box Score

    The Lookouts finished out their five-game series against Birmingham on Monday night. Kohl Stewart took the mound against former Twins minor leaguer Matthew Tomshaw. The left-hander was charged with five runs (three earned) on nine hits over just 3.1 innings before exiting the game.

    Stewart, on the other hand, was fantastic. The former #1 draft pick worked the first five innings for the Lookouts. He gave up one run on three hits. He walked none and struck out nine batters. He got five ground ball outs, all of which could be described as slow rollers. The lone run came on a single, a slow roller that advanced the runner to second base. Stewart then threw two wild pitches to allow the run to score.

    Ryan Eades came on and gave up one run over the next two innings. He gave up two hits, but he walked none and struck out three. Williams Ramirez came on and in 1.2 scoreless innings, walked three and struck out three. Ryne Harper had to come on for the final out. He recorded a strikeout to end the game and record his second save. He’s faced four batters and struck out all four this season.

    The Lookouts got their runs early. Brent Rooker came into the game 1-for-14, but he had singles in his first three at-bats. Like Rooker, LaMonte Wade went 3-for-4 in the game. Zander Wiel and TJ White each went 2-for-4. White hit his first double and stole his first base.

    The team improved to 3-2 on the season.

    Ft. Myers 6, Florida 4
    Box Score

    It always sounds strange to say that Ft. Myers is playing against Florida, but we’ll have to get used to that over the next few days as the Twins affiliate takes on the Florida State League affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. On this night, the Twins minor leaguers faced Ian Anderson, one of the talented young Braves starting pitcher prospects.

    Travis Blankenhorn is off to a fantastic start this season. On this night, he had a single, his fifth double and his first triple. On the season, he now has nine hits. He’s got five doubles, a triple, a homer and two singles.

    Jimmy Kerrigan was a nice signing out of the independent leagues a year ago. He went 2-for-3 with a walk and his first home run of the year.

    Clark Beeker made the start. He was the Twins Daily all-star right-handed pitcher in 2017. In his first Miracle start of the season, he went five innings. He gave up two runs on four hits. He walked one and struck out five. Cody Stashak came on in relief. In his two innings, he gave up two runs on just one hit. He walked two and struck out three. With the lead back, Alex Robinson came on for the final two innings. He walked one, hit one and struck out four batters to record his second save of the season.

    The Miracle moved back over .500 at 3-2 with the win.

    Cedar Rapids 3, Peoria 1
    Box Score

    The weather was still cold in Peoria, but the Kernels made their first road trip of the year and came out of it with a win.

    Blayne Enlow made his first start of the year. The right-hander got off to an interesting start. He got the first two batters that he faced out. But the next three hitters had singles to load the bases. Enlow was helped by a diving catch by right fielder Mark Contreras who caught a sinking liner to end that threat. In the second inning, Contreras made a leaping catch at the wall to save at least one run. But Enlow started with four scoreless innings. In the fifth inning, he left the game with one out and runners on first and third. Tall left-hander Kevin Marnon came on and gave up a sacrifice fly to give Peoria a 1-0 lead (run charged to Enlow). But Marnon finished the fifth inning, as well as the sixth and seventh frames and gave up just one hit and one walk. Side-winding Jared Finkel came on for the final two innings. He gave up three hits, but no runs, to record his first save of the season.

    The Kernels responded to the fifth inning run allowed by scoring a couple in the top of the sixth inning. With runners on second and third, Ben Rortvedt singled through the left side of the infield to drive in two runs and give the Kernels the lead. Rortvedt went 2-for-4 in the game. Mark Contreras did more than make great plays on defense. He went 2-for-4 with his first double of the season. He drove in an insurance run in the ninth inning as well. Third baseman Andrew Bechtold is now hitting .600 on the season after going 3-for-4 in this game. Ben Rodriguez also added his first double of the year.

    The Kernels remain undefeated at 3-0.

    Twins Daily Hitter of the Day: Travis Blankenhorn, Ft. Myers Miracle
    Twins Daily Pitcher of the Day: Kohl Stewart, Chattanooga Lookouts

    Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed:

    #1 - Royce Lewis (Cedar Rapids) - 0-4, 1 K
    #3 - Nick Gordon (Chattanooga) - 0-5, RBI, K
    #5 - Alex Kirilloff (Cedar Rapids) - 0-4
    #7 - Brent Rooker (Chattanooga) - 3-4, RBI
    #8 - Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) - 4.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
    #10 - Akil Baddoo (Cedar Rapids) - 1-4, BB, 3 K
    #13 - Lewin Diaz (Ft. Myers) - 0-4, K
    #14 - LaMonte Wade (Chattanooga) - 3-4,
    #16 - Ben Rortvedt (Cedar Rapids) - 2-4, 2 RBI
    #17 - Travis Blankenhorn (Ft. Myers) - 3-4, 2B (5), 3B (1), K

    Syracuse @ Rochester (4:35 CST) - LHP Adalberto Mejia
    Chattanooga - Travel Day
    Florida @ Ft. Myers (6:00) - RHP Sean Poppen
    Cedar Rapids @ Peoria (11:00 am CST) - LHP Tyler Watson

    Please feel free to ask any questions about Monday’s games, or ask any questions you may have.

    • Apr 09 2018 10:58 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  19. Twins Minor League Report (4/7): Gonsalves Great, Kernels Walk it Off in Extras

    Welcome to the Saturday Speed Round! Things are going to look slightly different, but hopefully you’ll still get all the great information you’re accustomed to seeing in the minor league reports here at Twins Daily.

    Rochester vs. Buffalo

    That’s back-to-back postponements for Rochester, as the Red Wings have yet to make their season debut. The teams will play a doubleheader at a later date. There’s still just one game scheduled for tomorrow.

    Chattanooga 2, Birmingham 0
    Box Score

    W Stephen Gonsalves: 5.1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
    SV Ryne Harper: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3K
    HR None
    Multi-hit games None

    What a pitching performance. Gonsalves set the tone with 5.1 no-hit innings. He walked three batters and had “only” three strikeouts, but the Barons only managed to hit four balls out of the infield.

    Tyler Jay was responsible for the lone hit the Lookouts gave up tonight, but he also pitched 1.2 shutout innings with a pair of strikeouts. Zack Jones walked two batters over a scoreless eighth inning before Ryne Harper staked his claim to the Chattanooga closer role. He struck out the side in a perfect ninth inning, needing just 13 pitches to do so.

    Tanner English led off the third inning with a double and scored on an Edgar Corcino sac fly. In the seventh inning, Sean Miller hit a single that scored catcher Wynston Sawyer.

    Charlotte 8, Fort Myers 4
    Box Score

    SP Charlie Barnes: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
    HR None
    Multi-hit games:
    Travis Blankenhorn 2-for-5, 2 2Bs, 2 RBIs, 2 R
    Brandon Lopez 2-for-3, 2B, BB, R
    Jimmy Kerrigan 2-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI

    Barnes struck out eight of the 20 batters he faced, but a couple of of his pitches the Stone Crabs made contact with really hurt. He gave up a two-run homer in the first, but the bats fought back to give Barnes a 4-3 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth. Unfortunately, Barnes surrendered another two-run homer.

    Max Cordy gave up another three runs over 2.1 innings of relief. Carlos Suniaga, who pitched for E-Town last year, had a successful FSL debut, throwing a perfect inning. Aaron Whitefield drew three walks and scored a run. Blankenhorn now has five extra-base hits in three games this season.

    Cedar Rapids 4, Quad Cities 3 (10 innings)
    Box Score

    W Ryan Mason: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
    SP Edwar Colina: 4.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 1 K
    HR None
    Multi-hit games:
    Royce Lewis 2-for-4, 2B, BB, R

    This game went into extra innings, meaning we got our first look at the new format where a runner starts the inning on second base. Instead of intentionally walking the first batter to set up a double play, Cedar Rapids manager Toby Gardenhire let his guys go to work. The decision paid off.

    The leadoff batter flew out, Ryan Mason picked off the runner who had been gifted second base to start the inning and then he struck out the next batter. Can’t get much better than that.

    The River Bandits also decided against the strategy of intentionally walking the leadoff batter in the hopes of inducing a double play. That decision did not pay off.

    Lewis led off the inning with a ground ball to the third baseman. Akil Baddoo, who started the inning on second base, broke to third on the play. The Quad Cities third basemen tried tagging Baddoo, but missed. Alex Kirilloff, the next batter, delivered a sacrifice fly, scoring Baddoo to walk it off.

    Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day: Stephen Gonsalves, Chattanooga Lookouts
    Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day: Royce Lewis, Cedar Rapids Kernels

    Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Prospects performed:

    #1 Royce Lewis (CR): 2-for-4, 2B, BB, R
    #2 Nick Gordon (CHAT): 1-for-2, 2B, 2 BBs, SB, K
    #4 Stephen Gonsalves (CHAT): 5.1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
    #5 Alex Kirilloff (CR): 0-for-4, 2 K, walk-off sacrifice fly
    #7 Brent Rooker (CHAT): 0-for-4, 4 K
    #10 Akil Baddoo (CR): 1-for-5, 2 R, SB, 2 K
    #13 Lewin Diaz (FM): 1-for-4
    #14 LaMonte Wade (CHAT): 0-for-3, BB
    #17 Travis Blankenhorn (FM): 2-for-5, 2 2Bs, 2 RBIs, 2 R
    #19 Tyler Jay (CHAT): 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

    Rochester vs. Buffalo (12:05 pm CT) - Aaron Slegers
    Chattanooga vs. Birmingham (1:15 pm CT) - Lewis Thorpe
    Chattanooga vs. Birmingham (Game 2) - Randy LeBlanc
    Fort Myers at Charlotte (11:35 pm CT) - Brady Anderson
    Cedar Rapids vs. Quad Cities (2:05 pm CT) - Blayne Enlow

    Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss the games.

    • Apr 09 2018 08:06 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  20. Twins Minor League Report (4/6): Blankenhorn Leads Miracle To Win

    Because three games were 'weathered' out, today you will get a little more detail in your Miracle report. It was a good day for a top Twins prospect.


    Rochester, Buffalo
    Box Score

    The Red Wings will now begin their 2018 season on Saturday afternoon with Aaron Slegers on the mound. The teams will make up the game later in the season.

    The Red Wings did announce that LHP Casey Crosby and Catcher Jordan Pacheco will begin the season on the disabled list.


    Chattanooga, Birmingham
    Box Score

    The Lookouts were unable to play the second game of their season because of rain and wet field conditions. The teams will play on Saturday and then two games on Sunday to make up for the game.

    Ft. Myers 6, Charlotte 4
    Box Score

    The Florida State League can be a difficult league for offenses, and it certainly will play out that way. But on this night, the Miracle were able to score six runs and scored in five different innings.

    In the second inning, after singles from Lewin Diaz and Travis Blankenhorn, Nelson Molina singled in the Miracle’s first run of the game. And then they showed a little power. In the third inning, Aaron Whitefield knocked his first home run of the season. In the fourth inning, Travis Blankenhorn gave the Miracle a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning with his first homer of the year.

    Tyler Wells made the start for the Miracle. He gave up a run in the first inning, but that was the lone run he allowed through the first four innings. He gave up three hits, walked two and struck out three. Logan Lombana came on for the fifth inning. He got two outs, but he gave up three hits. He left the game with two runners on and a one-run lead. Lefty Andrew Vasquez came on and after loading the bases with a walk, he gave up a two-run, game-tying single before getting the third out. Vasquez did work a perfect sixth inning.

    In the bottom of the sixth frame, the Miracle were able to tie the game at 4-4. Travis Blankenhorn hit his second double of the season and scored on a Jared Foster fielder’s choice.

    The game remained tied as Colton Davis worked two scoreless innings despite walking four batters.

    In the bottom of the eighth, the Miracle regained the lead. Caleb Hamilton led off with a walk. Jaylin Davis hit a one-out double that scored Hamilton and give the team a 5-4 lead. Davis went to third base on the throw and then scored on a wild pitch to make the score 6-4 heading into the ninth inning.

    Hard-throwing Alex Robinson came on for the ninth inning to protect the two-run lead. After getting the first out, Robinson hit a batter, gave up a single and a walk to load the bases. He got a strikeout for the second out. He then got a fly out for the final out of the game and his first save.

    The Miracle improved to 2-0 on the season. Miracle pitching coach Henry Bonilla was ejected in the eighth inning.

    Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities
    Box Score

    The Kernels went to Quad Cities on Thursday night for their season opener. They didn’t make the trek on Friday because of the cold weather conditions. On Saturday, the River Bandits will travel north to help the Kernels open their home schedule.

    Twins Daily Hitter of the Day: Travis Blankenhorn, Ft. Myers Miracle
    Twins Daily Pitcher of the Day: Tyler Wells, Ft. Myers Miracle

    With just one game, the list if pretty short in this game, but here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed:

    #13 - Lewin Diaz (Ft. Myers) - 1-4, R, K
    #17 - Travis Blankenhorn (Ft. Myers) - 3-4, 2B (2), HR (1), R, RBI, K

    New Miracle play-by-play guy, Marshall Kelner made some very nice comments about another prospect Aaron Whitefield.

    Buffalo @ Rochester (2:05 CST) - RHP Aaron Slegers (Weathered out again)
    Birmingham @ Chattanooga (6:15 CST) - LHP Stephen Gonsalves
    Ft. Myers @ Charlotte (5:05) - LHP Charlie Barnes
    Cedar Rapids @ Quad Cities (5:05 CST) - RHP Edwar Colina

    Please feel free to ask any questions about Friday’s games, or ask any questions you may have.

    • Apr 07 2018 11:11 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  21. Miracle Hope Experience Translates On The Field

    New Skipper At The Helm
    Manager Ramon Borrego is making the jump from the GCL Twins. He doesn’t have to move towns but his new gig will certainly come with some high expectations. The native Venezuelan briefly reached Triple-A as a player before becoming a manager. His playing career started in 1996 with the GCL Twins and he finished in 2002.

    His coaching career started in the Venezuelan Summer league, where he worked from 2005-2008. In 2009, he took the DSL Twins to the Dominican Summer League Finals before losing. He took over the GCL managing duties from Chris Heintz during the 2010 campaign. His team’s best finish was last season with first place finish in the South Division before losing in the first round of the playoffs. His career record with the GCL Twins was 236-235.

    Borrego will be joined on his coaching staff by some familiar faces. Henry Bonilla will return for his third season as the Miracle pitching coach. Steve Singleton will begin his second season as the hitting coach in Fort Myers and his third as a hitting coach in the Twins organization.

    Top Prospects To Watch
    Two of Twins Daily’s Top 20 Prospects and three of Baseball America’s Top 30 Prospects populate the Miracle Opening Day roster. The biggest name might be first baseman Lewin Diaz, who finished 13th on the Twins Daily Top 20 and Baseball America ranks him 26th. Diaz led the Midwest League with 33 doubles last year and added 12 home runs.

    Infielder Travis Blankenhorn is another familiar name to those who follow Twins prospects. At Twins Daily, we ranked him as the organization’s 17th best prospect entering the season. He’s stock is down a little after hitting .251 with 13 home runs in 117 games for Cedar Rapids last season. Baseball America squeezed him into their top-30 list at number 29.

    A name less known to Twins fans might be outfielder Aaron Whitefield. Twins Daily didn’t include him in our top-20 prospect list but Baseball America thought highly enough of him to rank him 19th. He was dangerous on the base-paths last season with Cedar Rapids by swiping 32 bases. He added 11 home runs to show some signs of power as well.

    Returning Core
    Three important pieces of last year’s playoff starting rotation will return to Fort Myers. Right-handed pitcher Brady Anderson led the Miracle in innings pitched (113.0) and games started (18). In college he pitched at Florida Gulf Coast University so he is getting accustomed to pitching in the Florida sun.

    Right-handed hurler Cody Stashak pitched at three different levels last season (Rookie, High-A, Double-A) but he was still able to finish second on the Miracle in innings pitched. His 1.10 WHIP was tops among Miracle pitchers with a minimum of 15 starts. He also finished second among starters with 72 strikeouts in 83.1 innings.

    Sean Poppen, a right-handed pitcher, made 11 starts for Fort Myers last season. Lefty Andrew Vasquez will return to the bullpen where he posted a 1.51 ERA in 23 relief appearances (35.2 IP) with 52 strikeouts. Righty Tom Hackimer posted a 1.93 ERA in 27 relief appearances.

    2018 MIRACLE OPENING DAY ROSTER (Returners in bold)

    Pitchers (13): RHP Brady Anderson, LHP Charlie Barnes, RHP Clark Beeker, RHP Adam Bray, RHP Colton Davis, RHP Tom Hackimer, RHP Hector Lujan, LHP Anthony Marzi, RHP Sean Poppen, LHP Alex Robinson, RHP Cody Stashak, LHP Andrew Vasquez, RHP Tyler Wells

    Catchers (3): Taylor Grzelakowski, Caleb Hamilton, Mitchell Kranson

    Infielders (5): Travis Blankenhorn, Lewin Diaz, Brandon Lopez, Nelson Molina, Alex Perez

    Outfielders (4): Jaylin Davis, Jared Foster, Jimmy Kerrigan, Aaron Whitefield

    More From Twins Daily
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    • Apr 03 2018 04:43 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  22. Twins 2018 Position Analysis: Third Base

    Projected Starter: Miguel Sano
    Likely Backup: Eduardo Escobar

    Depth: Ehire Adrianza, Erick Aybar, Taylor Featherston
    Prospects: Travis Blankenhorn, Andrew Bechtold, Jose Miranda


    It's all too easy to forget now, but just eight short months ago, Sano was the lone All Star rep from Minnesota's lineup. By the break, he already had 21 home runs with an OPS over 900, solidifying his status as long-term cog in the Twins infield.

    Though clearly playing above his listed weight of 260 pounds, he still respectably held his own at third base, making the majority of routine plays and occasionally flashing excellence with his cannon arm.

    Sano is an incredible talent. Let's not lose sight of that. He launched a pair of leisurely home runs on Friday in his sixth game of the spring, and that kind of thing should still be the expectation. If he's in the lineup, he's going to be a major threat. Even with his downslide after the All-Star break last year, the 24-year-old was on pace for 37 home runs before going down with a shin injury in August. With 71 career dingers in the books before age 25, he's on a rare pace.

    There are forces working against Sano – some of his own making, others not. But he is young enough to overcome them and put them in the rear view mirror. If it's always darkest before the dawn, then perhaps we're on the verge of a true breakthrough, which in Sano's case would simply mean a full season's worth of games (he's yet to play more than 116 in an MLB campaign) while realizing his 40 HR, 100+ RBI potential.

    In the event that Sano needs to miss time due to a suspension, setback with his leg, or some other affliction, the Twins are blessed with a pretty strong fallback option. Eduardo Escobar filled in brilliantly at the hot corner last year after the starter went down, slugging .529 with 10 bombs to basically mirror Sano's prodigious power output.

    Escobar finished with a .758 OPS overall, and has slashed .257/.304/.413 over the past four seasons. He's a better contingency than most teams have behind their best hitter, and his presence has been a big factor in mitigating the sense of alarm around Sano's ambiguity.


    Optimism aside, the alarm is well warranted. Sano has an assault investigation floating over his head, a steel rod in his shin, and plenty of skeptics surrounding him in the organization. Those might include his manager.

    Always measured in his words, Paul Molitor conveyed some leeriness when talking to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press last month:

    “I think the trend has been [Sano's] figuring some things out; some things have been a little harder to get through to him,” Molitor said. “At times I’ve tried to involve people that might be able to provide a voice that will penetrate. We’re just trying to get him to see the bigger picture.

    “He loves to play. It’s all in front of him. He, as much as anyone in that clubhouse, wants what’s in front of him, but I’m not sure he understands what is required to reap those rewards — of competing, winning, financial security, taking care of his family. We’re trying."

    Such sentiments toward Sano are nothing new, but it was easier to be sympathetic when he was a 22-year-old rookie. Today he's a 25-year-old who's shown up at camp with – in the kindest possible phrasing of his general manager – a "generous carriage." According to Pat Reusse, Sano is rumored to have weighed in this spring at 293 lbs.

    Where would that heft rank among all major-league players? It's almost impossible to say, given the sweeping inaccuracy of official listings (again, MLB's site still has Sano at 260), but I think we can safely say he's among the top handful of players. There's not likely a larger fielder outside of first base in the game.

    This isn't a knock against his all-around outlook as a big-leaguer, because I happen to believe that Sano can be a monster hitter even at three bucks, but the reality is that he's on the verge of becoming untenable at third base. A certain spryness requisite to the position becomes elusive for a man so large.

    Barring a reversal in physical development, which might be unrealistic given his genetic makeup, Sano appears destined for DH. The question is when. Minnesota's front office is hoping he can hold out as long as possible, because right now the system is thin on replacements.

    Yes, Escobar can fill in short-term. But he's eligible for free agency after this season. And the next in line behind him as a legit starting option at the position is... well, completely unclear. A trio of recent high draft picks stand out as the brightest long-term hopes: 2015 third-rounder Travis Blankenhorn (21), 2016 second-rounder Jose Miranda (19) and 2017 fifth-rounder Andrew Bechtold (21). But none will be arriving anytime soon.

    So suffice to say it would be really nice if Sano could hold it down at third for at least a couple more years. Which might help explain why the Twins haven't really entertained the idea of moving him off the position, and in fact delayed any possibility of such an outcome by signing Logan Morrison.


    It's all about Sano. If he can make a statement by proving himself healthy and at least serviceable defensively, the Twins will be more than happy to stick with him at third indefinitely. Sano's agility has always been better than you'd expect for his size, so maybe he'll surprise us even at this weight.

    More likely, he'll need to put in work and slim down a bit to remain viable at the hot corner, but that's a perfectly feasible scenario. It's important to keep in mind that he was extremely limited in his ability to condition this past offseason. To pin the lack of weight loss on disinterest would be ignorant.

    If things go amiss for the star slugger this season, Escobar provides a solid security valve, for now. After 2018, the front office may need to look at building out some better long-term depth at the position. Hopefully someone like Blankenhorn or Bechtold can take a big step forward.

    • Mar 12 2018 04:21 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  23. Twins Daily 2018 Top 20 Prospect Countdown: 16-20

    Let’s get to the list, and please feel free to discuss our choices and how they may rank on your personal top 10 or top 20 lists.

    20. Felix Jorge - RHP
    Age: 24
    2017 MiLB Stats (AA/AAA): 10-4, 3.68 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 149.0 IP, 161 H, 40 BB, 108 K
    2017 MLB Stats (MLB): 1-0, 10.57 ERA, 2.08 WHIP, 7.2 IP, 14 H, 2 BB, 4 K
    ETA: 2017
    2017 Ranking: 12

    Signed in February of 2011 Jorge has gradually worked his way up the Twins system. The last few years, he has turned himself from a suspect to a prospect. On the 40-man roster, Jorge was given an opportunity to make his MLB debut for the Twins when they had a need for a starter in July. Jorge was promoted directly from Chattanooga. In his debut, he gave up three runs in five innings and picked up his first MLB win. Five days later, he made another start. It didn’t go as well. He ended the regular season with starts in Rochester before pitching for Chattanooga in the Southern League playoffs. Jorge’s got a nice fastball in the 92-94 range. He’s got great poise and calm on the mound. He’s got a nice changeup and an improving curveball. In 2018, he should spend the year in Rochester and potentially get more opportunities to make starts for the Twins.

    19. Tyler Jay - LH RP
    Age: 23
    2017 Stats (AA/AAA): 3-0, 3.09 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 11.2 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 19 K
    ETA: 2018
    2017 Ranking: 5
    Jay was the Twins first-round pick in 2015 out of the University of Illinois. While he was a reliever in college, many teams believed that he had the pitches and the makeup to be a starter. That’s what he did in 2016, and he did well. However, he managed just 83.2 innings. This past spring, the Twins announced that Jay was being moved to the bullpen. It is a role that he should thrive in. Unfortunately, he missed nearly the entire 2017 season with biceps tendinitis. As you can see, he got good strikeout numbers. He went to the Arizona Fall League to make up for some of the lost time. However, when healthy, Jay has the ability and the potential to be a dominant relief options, and soon.

    18. Yunior Severino
    Age: 18
    2017 Stats (Rookie): .286/.345/.444 (.789), 17-2B, 2-3B, 3-HR
    ETA: 2022
    2017 Ranking: NR

    The Braves had a dozen minor leaguers declared free agents due to violations by their front office. Those players were then allowed to sign with other teams using international pool money from 2017 or 2018. Top prospect Kevin Maitan signed for $2.2 million with the Angels, though there were reports that the Twins offered him more than the Angels but he saw a quicker route to the majors with the Angels. The Twins didn’t worry about it. Instead, they signed Severino for $2.5 million of 2018 pool money. Severino had signed with the Braves in 2016 for $1.9 million.
    After spending ten games with the Braves DSL team last summer, he moved up to the GCL. Severino was signed as a shortstop, but he was already moved to second base due to his range. He is a switch-hitter. He has more power from the right-side now, but he has a lot of potential to add power.

    17. Travis Blankenhorn - 2B/3B
    Age: 21
    2017 Stats (Low-A): .251/.343/.441 (.784), 12-2B, 11-3B, 13-HR, 13-SB
    ETA: 2021
    2017 Ranking: 9

    Signed as the Twins third-round pick in 2015 out of high school in Pennsylvania, Blankenhorn spent the entire 2017 season in Cedar Rapids. He had ended the 2016 season with 25 games for the Kernels. Blankenhorn had some ups and downs throughout the 2017 season. By month, his OPS were .776, .604, 1.048, .449, and 1.023. You can see the upside in those numbers. You can also see the inconsistency that you might expect from a 21-year-old. But Blankenhorn can fill a stat sheet. He’s got a good approach at the plate. He can use the whole field. He has extra base pop with the speed to turn doubles into triples. He’s got power now, and he’s got the size to develop even more home run power. He also is a good base runner who can steal bases. Twice in 2017 he stole home.
    Defensively, Blankenhorn spent the first half of the season at third base (.916 fielding percentage). After the All Star break, he moved over to second base for the second half (.989 fielding percentage). He’s still working at both positions and now feels comfortable at both, but he’s happy to play anywhere as long as he’s in the lineup.

    16. Ben Rortvedt - C
    Age: 20
    2017 Stats (Low A): .224/.284/.315 (.599), 16-2B, 4-HR
    ETA: 2022
    2017 Ranking: 19

    Rortvedt was the Twins second-round pick in 2016 out of high school in Wisconsin. After splitting 2016 between the GCL and Elizabethton, Rortvedt was one of the younger players in the Midwest League in 2017. He struggled early in the season. Through May, he was hitting just .187/.234/.174 (.388), but the Twins believed in him and Rortvedt responded very well. Over his final 54 games, he hit a very respectable .273/.324/.397 (.721). While the bat remains a work-in-progress for the 20-year-old, his defense is already very good. He works well with pitchers. He’s a very good athlete which helps him with blocking pitches and with his footwork so he’s able to show off his very strong, accurate arm.

    • Feb 06 2018 08:51 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  24. Twins On Deck With Seth Podcast (Episode 3)

    Tonight, I am joined by another solid group of Twins minor league prospects as well as another senior of the Minnesota Gophers baseball team. I'll be joined by two more members of the 2017 draft class, a prospect acquired by the Twins at the trade deadline, and a toolsy prospect with a ton of upside. Here are the guests, starting with the Golden Gopher.

    Alex Boxwell is a senior outfielder for the University of Minnesota. The Coon Rapids native hit .253/.329/.438 (.767) with a double, four triples and six home runs.

    LHP Bryan Sammons was the Twins 10th round pick in 2017 out of Western Carolina University. After seven games with Elizabethton, he moved up to Cedar Rapids where he made five starts and a relief appearance before the end of his pro debut season.

    Another left-hander from the 2017 draft class is Hawaiian Ryley Widell who the Twins took with their 7th round pick out of Central Arizona. He debuted with Elizabethton where he struck out 41 batters in 29.2 innings.

    The Twins received RHP Zack Littell along with LHP Dietrich Enns in exchange for LHP Jaime Garcia before the July trade deadline. He was an impressive 20-1 (counting a playoff win for Chattanooga) in 2017 and was Minor League Baseball's Starting Pitcher of the Year. After the season, he was added to the Twins 40-man roster. He attended Twins Fest this past weekend.

    Travis Blankenhorn was another Twins Fest participant this week. He spent the 2017 season in Cedar Rapids where he hit .251/.343/.441 (.784) with 22 doubles, 11 triples and 13 home runs. He also stole 13 bases, including a dramatic steal of home!

    Tune in live at 8 tonight. For each guest, I'll be sure to ask questions that you submit down below, or via twitter, so feel free to participate by asking questions.

    If you can't listen live, it will be available here right after the completion of the podcast. To find it on iTunes, search "Minnesota Sports Weekly" and find this podcast.

    • Jan 22 2018 02:13 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  25. Twins Prospect Spotlight Series: Travis Blankenhorn

    Ranking prospects is a difficult task and everyone has a bit of a different methodology. This series isn’t meant to be critical of any of the other lists out there, it’s all about presenting a positive case for the featured player. We started at the bottom of my list and worked up from there. Here’s a look back at previous installments:

    Range 41-50 spotlight: Zander Wiel
    Range 31-40 spotlight: Tom Hackimer
    Range 21-30 spotlight: Lachlan Wells
    Range 11-20 spotlight: Ben Rortvedt
    Range 1-10 spotlight: Travis Blankenhorn, No. 9

    Blankenhorn had a streaky season, but when he was rolling it was quite a sight to see. He posted an OPS north of 1.000 in both June and August, but in between had a dismal July. Still, from June forward he hit .265/.358/.492 (.851) in 69 games. Over that stretch, his walk rate was 10.4 percent and he struck out in 22.2 percent of his plate appearances. I don’t feel like that’s an alarmingly high strikeout rate for a guy slugging near .500 and taking some walks.

    What might explain some of that ugly July when he hit .144/.238/.211? It’s possible he was tinkering with his approach or that he was a little worn down physically. Could've been a combination of the two. Blankenhorn entered 2017 with 467 plate appearances as a pro spread across over two seasons. He logged 508 PAs over 118 games in 2017 alone.

    Even with some ups and downs, Blankenhorn was the youngest player in the org to hit at least 13 home runs. There are signs more dingers could be on the way. He ranked ninth in the Midwest League with a 45.1 percent fly-ball rate and was 11th in pull percentage at 48.6. He's also been doing a great job of decreasing his ground balls each season.

    Blankenhorn GB:FB ratio
    2015: 2.05
    2016: 1.37
    2017: 0.99

    Along with some encouraging signs that a power surge could be in the future, Blankenhorn is also a good athlete. He led the system with 11 triples and is 21-for-24 in stolen base attempts over his career (87.5 percent success rate). One of those steals was among the most memorable moments of the 2017 minor league season.

    The Kernels were vying for a first-half playoff berth. Tie game. Bottom of the eighth inning. Bases loaded. Two down and a 1-2 count on the batter ... BLANKENHORN’S STEALING HOME!!!!

    How cool was that? Blankenhorn also led the entire org in hit-by-pitches with 17, so this is also a guy who has a bit of grit to him. He still has some work to do in terms of smoothing out his baseball skills, but that shouldn’t be too surprising given his background.

    Blankenhorn was a three-sport athlete in a cold-weather state (Pennsylvania), so he may not have gotten as much time on the diamond as some other guys who focused solely on baseball. Looking back, his numbers with the Kernels remind me a bit of another young guy who spent relatively limited time playing baseball as an amateur ...

    2017 Blankenhorn, age 20 season with Cedar Rapids
    .251/.343/.441 (.784 OPS), 9.3 BB%, 23.4 K%

    2013 Max Kepler, age 20 season with Cedar Rapids
    .237/.312/.424 (.736 OPS), 9.1 BB%, 16.3 K%

    Kepler had one of the more unique backgrounds of any prospect, so it’s tough to compare his early years with a player who came from a more traditional path, but I just thought it was really interesting to see their numbers side-by-side.

    Platoon splits are a concern for Blankenhorn, who hit .228/.320/.346 vs. lefties, and he didn’t have a good year defensively at third base. He looked a bit more comfortable at second base, but it’s also possible that at some point he ends up as a corner outfielder. There's still time to smooth things out as an infielder, and I'd expect him to get more opportunities to develop at the hot corner.

    Only time will tell where Blankenhorn ends up defensively, but you can count me as a believer in the bat. For more on Travis Blankenhorn and about 170 other Twins minor leaguers, be sure to pick up a copy of the 2018 Twins Prospect Handbook, which will be available ... VERY SOON!!!

    • Dec 19 2017 06:55 PM
    • by Tom Froemming